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IN offering to English and American readers this 
abridged edition of The Life and Letters of Peter 
Ilich Tchaikovsky, my introduction must of necessity 
take the form of some justification of my curtail- 
ments and excisions. 

The motives which led to this undertaking, and the 
reasons for my mode of procedure, may be stated in a few 

In 1900 I published a volume dealing with Tchaikovsky, 1 
which was, I believe, the first attempt to embody in book 
form all the literature scattered through the byways of 
Russian journalism concerning the composer of the 
Pathetic Symphony. 

In the course of a year or two the book having sold 
out in England and America a proposal was made to me 
to prepare a new edition. Meanwhile, however, the 
authorised Life and Letters, compiled and edited by the 
composer's brother, Modeste Ilich Tchaikovsky, was being 
issued in twenty-five parts by P. I. Jurgenson, of Moscow. 2 

1 Tchaikovsky, his Life and Works: with extracts from his writings and 
the diary of his tour abroad in 1888. Grant Richards, London, 1900. 

2 Zijn Piotra Ilicha Tchaikovskavo. P. Jurgenson, Moscow. Three 


This original Russian edition was followed almost imme- 
diately by a German translation, published in Leipzig by 
the same firm. 1 

In November, 1901, the late P. I. Jurgenson approached 
me on the subject of a translation, but his negotiations 
with an American firm eventually fell through. He then 
requested me to find, if possible, an English publisher 
willing to take up the book. Both in England and 
America the public interest in Tchaikovsky seemed to be 
steadily increasing. Frequent calls for copies of my small 
book by this time out of print testified that this was 
actually the case. 

An alternative course now lay before me : to revise my 
own book, with the help of the material furnished by the 
authorised Life and Letters, or to take in hand an English 
translation of the latter. The first would have been the 
less arduous and exacting task ; on the other hand, there 
was no doubt in my mind as to the greater value and im- 
portance of Modeste Tchaikovsky's work. 

The simplest and in many ways most satisfactory 
course seemed at first to be the translation of the Russian 
edition in its entirety. Closer examination, however, 
revealed the fact that out of the 3,000 letters included in 
this book a large proportion were addressed to persons 
quite unknown to the English and American publics ; 
while at the same time it contained a mass of minute and 
almost local particulars which could have very little signifi- 
cance for readers unversed in every detail of Russian 
musical life. 

1 Das Leben Peter lljitsch Tschaikowsky 's , translated by Paul Juon. P. 
Jurgenson, Leipzig. Two volumes. 


Another practical question confronted me. What pub- 
lisher would venture upon launching this biographical 
three-decker, with its freight of 3,000 letters, amounting 
to nearly 2,000 pages of closely printed matter? Such 
colossal biographies, however valuable as sources of in- 
formation to the specialist, are quite beyond all possibility 
of purchase or perusal by the general public. That the 
author himself realised this, seems evident from the fact 
that the German edition was lightened of about a third of 
the original contents. 

Following the lines of these authorised abridgments, 
while using my own judgment as to the retention of some 
portions of the Russian text omitted in the German 
edition, I have condensed the work still further. 

It may be true, as Carlyle has said, that mankind takes 
" an unspeakable delight in biography " ; but it is equally 
certain that these " headlong days " which have witnessed 
the extinction of the three-volume novel are absolutely 
unfavourable to the success of the three-volume biography. 

While admiring the patient and pious industry which 
has raised so colossal a monument to Tchaikovsky's 
memory, I cannot but feel that it would be unreasonable 
to expect of any nation but his own a hero-worship so 
devout that it could assimilate a Tchaikovskiad of such 
prodigious dimensions. 

The present volume is the result of a careful selection 
of material. The leading idea which I have kept in view 
throughout the fulfilment of my task has been to preserve 
as far as possible the autobiographical character of the book. 
Wherever feasible, I have preferred to let Tchaikovsky 
himself tell the story of his life. For this reason the 
proportion of letters to the additional biographical matter 


is even greater in my version than in the German edition. 
When two or three letters of only moderate interest have 
followed in immediate succession, I have frequently con- 
densed their contents into a single paragraph, keeping as 
closely as possible to the phraseology of the composer 

In one respect the present edition shows a clear im- 
provement upon the German. In the latter the dates 
have been given throughout in the Old Style, thereby 
frequently causing confusion in the minds of Western 
readers. In the English version with a few unimportant 
exceptions the dates are given according to both 

The most romantic episode of Tchaikovsky's life his 
friendship extending over thirteen years with a woman to 
whom he never addressed a direct personal greeting is 
told in a series of intimate letters. In these I have 
spared all but the most necessary abridgements. 

The account of his tour in America, which takes the 
form of a diary kept for the benefit of his near relatives, 
cannot fail to amuse and interest all those who remember 
the favourable impression created by his appearance at 
the inauguration of the Carnegie Hall, New York, in 
May, 1891. 

The illustrations are the same as those published in the 
Russian and German publications, with two notable addi- 
tions : the photograph of Tchaikovsky and Siloti, and the 
fine portrait by Kouznietsov. 

My thanks are due to Mr. Grant Richards for permis- 
sion to republish the facsimile from the score of the 
Overture "1812"; also to Mr. W. W. Manning and 
Mr. Adolf Brodsky for the kind loan of autographs. 


In conclusion, let me say that in planning and carrying 
out this work it is not so much the needs of the specialist 
I have kept most constantly in view, as those of that 
large section of the musical public whose interest in Tchai- 
kovsky has been awakened by the sincerely emotional 
and human%lements of his music. 




PART I. CHAPTERS I.- V. 1840-1861 . . i 

PART II. CHAPTERS I.- VII. 1861-1866 . . 30 

PART III. CHAPTERS I.-XIII. 1866-1877 - 64 

PART IV. CHAPTERS I.-VIII. 1877-1878 , . 204 

PARV V. CHAPTERS I.- XX. 1878-1885 , . 318 

PART VI. CHAPTERS I.-XIII. 1885-1888 . . 468 

PART VII. CHAPTERS I.- XIX. 1888-1893 . . 539 

APPENDICES A, B, C . . . . .726 





KOUZNIETSOV . . . Frontispiece 



FATHER, IN 1860 . . ... 4 


VOTINSK . . . ... 8 


TYPE . . . ' l\ . . 14 


POSER'S MOTHER, IN 1848 ?r , : . r g. n . . 20 

6. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1859 (VIGNETTE) ->;i o man 26 


MODESTE AND ANATOL . - T ,->. . 34 


9. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1863 . -.. , . 56 
IT. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1868 . . ... 102 

12. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1873 . . . . . 132 

13. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1874 . . . . . 150 

14. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1877 . . . . 214 



16. TCHAIKOVSKY IN 1888 . . ... 540 





21. SITTING-ROOM AT KLIN . . ... 700 


"To regret the past, to hope in the future, and 
never to be satisfied with the present this is my 
life." P. TCHAIKOVSKY (Extract from a letter} 




ONE of the most characteristic traits of Peter 
Ilich Tchaikovsky was his ironical attitude 
towards his family's traditions of noble descent. 
He never lost an opportunity of making fun 
of their armorial bearings, which he regarded as " imagin- 
ary," and clung obstinately to the plebeian origin of the 
Tchaikovskys. This was not merely the outcome of his 
democratic convictions, but had its origin, partly in the 
pride which lay at the very root of his nature, and partly 
in his excessive conscientiousness. He would not con- 
sider himself a scion of the aristocracy, because his nearest 
ancestors could not boast of one boyar, nor one owner 
of patrimonial estates. His father was the sole serf-owner 
in the family, and he possessed a cook with a numerous 
progeny ten souls in all. 

But if he was unconcerned as to family descent, he was 
far from indifferent as to nationality. The aristocratic 
pretensions of his relatives aroused his mockery, but 
the mere suggestion of their Polish origin stirred him 


to instant wrath. Love of Russia and all things Russian 
was so deeply rooted in him that, while he cared nothing 
for questions of pedigree, he rejoiced to discover among 
his earliest ancestors on his father's side one orthodox 
Russian from the district of Kremenschug. 

Tracing back Tchaikovsky's pedigree, we do not find 
a single name connected with music. There is not one 
instance of a professional musician, and only three can be 
considered amateurs his mother's brother, Michael Assier; 
her sister Catharine, in her day a well-known amateur in 
Petersburg society; and the composer's mother herself, 
who sang the fashionable ballads of her youth with feeling 
and expression. All the rest of the family Assiers and 
Tchaikovskys alike not only lacked musical talent, but 
were indifferent to the art. Thus it is almost impossible 
to ascertain from whom Peter Ilich inherited his genius, 
if indeed there can be any question of heredity. His one 
certain inheritance seems to have been an abnormally 
neurotic tendency, which probably came to him through 
his grandfather Assier, who suffered from epilepsy. If 
it is true, as a modern scientist asserts, that "genius" is 
merely an abnormal physical condition, then it is possible 
that Tchaikovsky may have inherited his musical gift, at 
the same time as his " nerves," from the Assier family. 

Little is known of the early life of the composer's father, 
Ilia Petrovich Tchaikovsky. In old age he rarely spoke 
of his youth, and did not care to be questioned about it. 
Not that he had any painful memories to conceal, but 
it was his habit to avoid all reference to himself, and only 
to speak of his past when he had some amusing anecdote 
to relate, or when he was induced by others to recall some 
glad, or sorrowful, event of bygone days. 

Ilia Petrovich Tchaikovsky was educated at the School 
of Mining Engineers, which he left in 1817 at the age 
of twenty-two, having been awarded the distinction of 


a silver medal. In the same year he was appointed to an 
inspectorship in the Mining and Geological Department. 
His career cannot have been brilliant, since it took him 
twenty years to rise to the rank corresponding to a lieu- 
tenant-colonel. But the fact that at thirty he was already 
a member of the Scientific Committee of the Institute of 
Mining Engineers, and lectured on mining law and statis- 
tics, proves him to have been a capable and industrious 
member of his profession. 

In private life, all who knew him agreed as to his sym- 
pathetic, jovial, and straightforward character. Benevolence 
or more correctly speaking, a universal affection was 
one of his chief characteristics. In youth, manhood, and old 
age he loved his neighbour, and his faith in him remained 
unshaken. His trustfulness knew no limits ; and even the 
loss of his entire fortune, due to misplaced confidence, did 
not avail to make him suspicious of his fellow-men. To 
the end of his days, everyone he met was " an excellent, 
honourable, good fellow." Disillusionment cut him to the 
quick, but had no power to obscure his rosy views of 
human nature. It would be difficult to find a man who 
possessed so many devoted friends. 

Although a capable specialist, as regards general culture 
and intelligence Ilia Petrovich had only a mediocre equip- 
ment. He had no great taste for art and science. Music 
and the drama interested him most. In his youth he 
played the flute a little, but gave it up early in life. 

On September nth (23rd), 1827, Ilia Petrovich married 
Maria Carlovna Keiser, by whom he had one daughter. 
Shortly afterwards he was left a widower and, in October, 
1833, married, for a second time, Alexandra Andreievna 

Almost as little is known of the childhood and youth 
of the composer's mother as of his father. As early as 
1816 she was left motherless, and was brought up in a 
Female Orphanage, where she completed her education in 


1829. The instruction in this school appears to have been 
excellent. Alexandra Andreievna had a thorough know- 
ledge of French and German. In addition, she played 
the piano a little and sang nicely. A satisfactory educa- 
tion for a girl who had neither means nor position. 

Those who knew the composer's mother describe her as 
tall and distinguished-looking; not precisely handsome, 
but with wonderfully expressive eyes. All agreed that 
there was something particularly attractive in her appear- 
ance. Peter Ilich recollected his mother as a tall woman, 
inclined to be stout, with wonderful eyes and beautiful 
hands, although by no means small. " Such hands do not 
exist nowadays, and never will again," he used to say in 
after life. 

Alexandra Andreievna, unlike her husband, was rather 
reserved and chary of endearments. Her kindness, as 
compared to his universal amiability, seemed somewhat 
austere, and showed itself more frequently in act than in 
speech. The first child of this marriage was a daughter 
who died in infancy. 

In 1837 Ilia Tchaikovsky was appointed inspector of 
the mines at Kamsko-Votinsk, in the Government of 
Viatka, where he settled with his wife. On May Qth 
(2 ist), 1838, a son was born to them Nicholas Ilich; 
while on April 28th (May loth), 1840, a second son came 
into the world Peter Ilich the subject of this biography. 

The position of manager in the case of such important 
mines as those of Votinsk closely resembled that of a 
wealthy landowner living on his estate. In some respects 
it was even more advantageous, because he had every 
luxury in life provided for him : a fine house, a staff of 
servants, and almost unlimited control over a number of 
human beings. Ilia Tchaikovsky even had at command a 
small army of a hundred Cossacks, and a little court, con- 
sisting of such employes in the mines as had any claim 



to social position. The fine salary, thanks to the wise 
economy of his wife, sufficed not only for every comfort, 
but even admitted of something being put by for less 
prosperous times. 

The allowance provided for social purposes sufficed for 
widespread hospitality, and, owing to the affability of the 
host, and the characteristic charm of his wife, the Tchai- 
kovskys' house was the favourite resort of all the neigh- 
bouring society. This circle had nothing in common with 
the uncultured provincial society of those days. It was 
composed chiefly of young men from St. Petersburg, hold- 
ing various Government appointments in the district, and 
of one highly intellectual English family. The proximity 
of Asia and the remoteness from civilised centres were 
scarcely perceptible. 

About the period of Peter Ilich's earliest recollections, 
two new members were added to the Tchaikovsky family 
a girl, Alexandra, born December 28th, 1842 (January 
9th, 1843), an d a son, Hyppolite, born April loth (22nd), 
1844. The care of the younger children now so exclu- 
sively occupied the mother's attention that she was obliged 
to engage a governess for her eldest son, Nicholas, and a 
niece, Lydia, who lived with the family. While on a visit 
to St. Petersburg she became acquainted with Fanny 
Durbach, and brought her back to Votinsk in November, 

In view of the lasting influence which her personality 
exercised upon Peter Ilich, some account of this lady 
should be given here. 

Fanny Durbach had been specially trained as a teacher, 
and had already had some experience in her work. She 
knew French and German thoroughly, and was a strict 
Protestant. She is still living at Montbeillard, near 
Belfort, where she continues to give lessons. The poverty 
in which she lived impressed me still more on my visit to 
her in 1894, because I knew that two years earlier my 


brother Peter Ilich had implored her to accept a regular 
allowance, which she absolutely refused. " I am content 
with what I have," she told him ; " as far as I can be, after 
the heavy blows fate has dealt me, I am happy." The 
expression of her face, wonderfully young for a woman 
of seventy-two, and the light in her large black eyes, 
bespoke such true peace of mind and purity of heart that 
I felt sure neither her physical ailments, nor the lack of 
luxury in her surroundings, had power to darken the light 
of her declining days. 

Although Fanny Diirbach's connection with the Tchai- 
kovsky family lasted only four years, her memory lives 
with them to-day, while all her successors have long been 
forgotten. She, too, had retained a vivid recollection of 
"the happiest time in her life," and her account of her 
arrival at Votinsk gives an animated picture of the 
patriarchal life of the Tchaikovsky family. 

" I travelled from Petersburg with Madame Tchai- 
kovsky and her son Nicholas. The journey took three 
weeks, during which time we became so friendly that we 
were quite intimate on our arrival. All the same, I felt 
very shy. Had it only depended upon Madame Tchai- 
kovsky and her boy, all had been well ; but there was 
still the prospect of meeting strangers and facing new 
conditions of life. The nearer we drew to the journey's end, 
the more restless and anxious I became. On our arrival, 
a single moment sufficed to dispel all my fears. A number 
of people came out to meet us, and in the general greet- 
ing and embracing it was difficult to distinguish relatives 
from servants. All fraternised in the sincerity of their 
joy. The head of the family kissed me without ceremony, 
as though I had been his daughter. It seemed less like a 
first arrival than a return home. The next morning I began 
my work without any misgivings for the future." 



Peter Ilich was four and a half years old when Fanny 
came to be governess to Nicholas and his cousin Lydia, 
and on the first day his mother had to yield to his tearful 
entreaties to share the lessons of the elder children. Hence- 
forward he always learnt with them, and resented being 
excused any task on the grounds of his youth. He was 
wonderfully quick in overtaking his fellow-pupils, and at 
six could read French and German fluently. He learnt 
Russian with a tutor. 

From the beginning, Fanny was especially attracted by 
her youngest pupil ; not only because he was more gifted 
and conscientious than the others, nor because he was more 
docile than Nicholas, but because in all the child's. ways 
there was something original and uncommon, which exer- 
cised an indefinable charm on everyone who came in con- 
tact with him. 

In looks he did not compare favourably with Nicholas, 
and was never so clean and tidy. His clothes were always 
in disorder. Either he had stained them in his absent- 
mindedness, or buttons were missing, or his hair was only 
half-brushed, so that by the side of his spruce and impec- 
cable brother he did not show to advantage at first sight. 
But when the charm of his mind, and still more of his 
heart, had time to work, it was impossible not to prefer 
him to the other children. This sympathetic charm, this 
gift of winning all hearts, Tchaikovsky retained to the last 
day of his life. 

To my inquiry in what way the boy's charm showed 
itself most, our old governess replied : 

"In no one particular thing, but rather in all his ways 
and actions. At lessons no child was more industrious or 


quicker to understand; in playtime none was so full of fun. 
When we read together none listened so attentively as he 
did, and when on holidays I gathered my pupils around 
me in the twilight and let them tell tales in turn, no one 
could improvise so well as Peter Ilich. I shall never forget 
these precious hours of my life. In daily intercourse we all 
loved him, because we felt he loved us in return. His 
sensibility was extreme, therefore I had to be very careful 
how I treated him. A trifle wounded him deeply. He was 
brittle as porcelain. With him there could be no question 
of punishment ; the least criticism or reproof, that would 
pass lightly over other children, would upset him alarm- 

The weak and unhappy always found in him a staunch 
protector. Once he heard with indignation that someone 
was intending to drown a cat. When he discovered the 
monster who was planning this crime, he pleaded so 
eloquently that pussy's life was saved. 

Another proof of his compassion for the suffering was his 
extraordinary sympathy for Louis XVII. Even as a grown 
man his interest in the unhappy prince survived. In 1868 
he bought a picture representing him in the Temple, and 
had it framed. This picture, and the portrait of Anton 
Rubinstein, remained for a long while the only adornments 
of his walls. 

The boy was also influenced by that enthusiastic patriot- 
ism not without a touch of Chauvinism which character- 
ised the reign of Nicholas I. From this early period dates 
that exclusive affection for everything Russian which lasted 
his whole lifetime. Sometimes his love for his country was 
shown in a very droll way. Fanny used to relate the 
following story : 

" Once, during the recreation hour, he was turning over 
the pages of his atlas. Coming to the map of Europe, he 
smothered Russia with kisses and spat on all the rest of the 
world. When I told him he ought to be ashamed of such 
behaviour, that it was wicked to hate his fellow-men who 


said the same ' Our Father ' as himself, only because they 
were not Russians, and reminded him that he was spitting 
upon his own Fanny, who was a Frenchwoman, he replied 
at once : ' There is no need to scold me ; didn't you see me 
cover France with my hand first ? ' " 

Continuing her reminiscences, Fanny said : 

" As our leisure hours were few, I insisted on devoting 
them to physical exercise; but often I met with some 
opposition from Pierre, who would go straight from his 
lessons to the piano. Otherwise he was obedient, and 
generally enjoyed romping with his sisters. Left to him- 
self, he preferred to play the piano, or to read and write 

In the autumn of 1846 his half-sister Zinai'da left the 
Catharine Institute, in St. Petersburg, and, her education 
being finished, returned to live at home. With the arrival 
of this pretty and lively school-girl the house became even 
merrier and brighter than before. To the boy's imagina- 
tion, the new-comer seemed a visitant from a fairy world. 

In February, 1848, Ilia Tchaikovsky retired with the 
rank of major-general. He was anxious to get an ap- 
pointment as manager of private mines, and with this 
object in view left Votinsk, with all his family, for a long 
visit to Moscow. As it was intended on their arrival to 
send Lydia and the elder boys to school, Fanny now took 
leave of her friends for good. Not until forty-four years 
had elapsed did she renew her acquaintance with the 
family in the person of Peter Ilich. 

Besides Fanny's reminiscences, which form so valuable 
an addition to the biography of Tchaikovsky, she also 
preserved the books in which her favourite pupil set down 
his thoughts in leisure hours ; more often than not in the 
form of verse. The old lady could not be persuaded to let 
these relics leave her keeping, but she willingly made 
extracts from them. 


These manuscript books naturally contain nothing of 
real artistic or literary value, but they are not the less 
interesting on that account. They show the origin and 
give the explanation of Tchaikovsky's artistic tendency, 
and are not merely interesting from a biographical point 
of view, but as documents in which we may study the 
evolution of genius. These childish verses prove a pre- 
cocious desire for expression, before the right medium 
had been discovered. Here the future musician is knock- 
ing at the wrong door. 

There are two copy-books and a few loose pages. The 
handwriting, although not beautiful, is well formed and 
firm. The pages show traces of carelessness. They 
would have been very differently written, had they been 
intended for other eyes than his own. We find here a 
miscellany of verses, extracts, rough copies of letters, 
attempts to draw houses, odd words and phrases, all jotted 
down without any connection. 

The first book opens with a translation from a French 
reading-primer, Ltducation maternelle. It bears the date 
1847, with a French signature, and is followed by several 
poems, of which two are in Russian and the rest in French. 
They may be divided into three groups : the poems relating 
to God ; those which have a patriotic tendency ; and those 
which display his sympathy for the weak and suffering and 
his love of animals. 

The first poem, dated 1 847, is called : 


Tez ailes dories ont void chez moi (?) 

Ta voi m'a parler 

O ! que j'etais heureuse 

Quant tu venait chez moi 

Tes ailes son blanc et pur aussi 

Viens encore une/0/> 

Pour parler de Dieu puissant ! 


Later on come some notes headed : " La force, 1'activite." 
" II avait dans sa vie la force et 1'activite ! " 

When we recollect the ebullient activity of Peter Ilich's 
musical career, and his unflagging energy, we cannot help 
giving to these fortuitous entries, if not a predictive signifi- 
cance, at least that of a conscious homage to the qualities 
he most admired. 

His patriotic ardour found vent in four poems, dated 
1847, of which the following is a specimen : 

Terre ! apresent tu est loin de moi 

Je ne te voi plus, o patrie cherie ! 

Je t'embrasse. O ! pays adores 

Toi, oh Russie aitnt 

Vien ! men / aupre de moi 

Toi, place ou je suis nd 

Je te salut ! oh, terre cherie 

Longtemps quand je suis ne' 

Je n'avais ni memoire, ni raison 

Ni de dons pour parler 

Oh, je ne savais pas que ma Patrie est Russie ! 

He also attempted an historical essay in verse on Joan 
of Arc, whom he had learnt to know from Masson's Les 
En/ants cttebres. It is entitled : 


On t'aime, on ne t'oublie pas 

Heroine si belle ! 

Tu as sauvd la France 

Fille d'un berger ! 

Mais qui fait ces actions si belles ! 

Barbare anglais vous ont tue*e, 

Toute la France vous admire 

Tes cheveux blonds jusqu'a tes genoux 

Us sont tres beau 

Tu dtais si ce*lebre 

Que 1'ange Michel t'apparut. 

Les ce*lebres on pense a eux 

Les mechants on les oublie ! 


After 1848 there are no more poetical effusions, perhaps 
because Fanny was no longer there to preserve such docu- 
ments; but more probably because the boy had just begun 
to discover in music a new medium for the expression of 
his sentiments. 

At Votinsk there were no musicians, with the exception 
of a few indifferent amateur pianists. The mother sang a 
little, but only played the piano for her children to dance 
to ; at least, from the time of her marriage, we never hear 
of a more serious repertoire. No other member of the 
household could do even as much. Unfortunately Fanny 
was not at all musical, so that the place of music master 
to the future composer fell to the lot of an inanimate 
object an orchestrion which his father brought home 
with him after a visit to St. Petersburg. 

This orchestrion was a superior one, with a varied 
programme. Peter Ilich himself considered that he owed 
his first musical impressions to this instrument, which he 
was never tired of hearing. A composition by Mozart 
had a particular fascination for him, and his passionate 
worship of this master dates from this period of child- 
hood, when Zerlina's " Aria," or any melody from Don 
Juan> played by the orchestrion, awoke in him " a beatific 
rapture." Thanks to this instrument, he first became 
acquainted with the music of Bellini and Donizetti, so 
that even the love of Italian opera, which he cherished 
all his life, may be said to have originated in the same 

Very early in life he displayed a remarkable ear and 
quick musical perception. No sooner had he acquired 
some rudimentary knowledge from his mother, than he 
could repeat upon the piano all he heard on the orches- 
trion. He found such delight in playing that it was 
frequently necessary to drag him by force from the 
instrument. Afterwards, as the next best substitute, he 


would take to drumming tunes upon the window-panes. 
One day, while thus engaged, he was so entirely carried 
away by this dumb show that he broke the glass and 
cut his hand severely. This accident led his parents to 
reflect upon the child's incurable tendency and consider 
the question of his musical education. They decided to 
engage as pianoforte teacher a young lady called Marie 
Markovna Palchikov. This was about a year after Fanny's 
arrival. Where this teacher came from, and how far she 
understood her business, we cannot say. We only know 
she came on purpose to teach Peter Ilich, who kept a 
pleasant recollection of her. But she cannot entirely have 
satisfied the requirements of the future composer, because 
already in 1848 he could read at sight as easily as she 
did. Nor can her knowledge of musical literature have 
been extensive, for her pupil could not remember a single 
item in her repertory. 

We know from Fanny's own testimony that the boy 
spent every spare moment at the piano, and that she did 
her utmost to prevent it. A musician's life did not offer 
to her mind a radiant prospect. She took more pleasure 
in her pupil's literary efforts, and called him in fun " the 
juvenile Poushkin." She also observed that music had a 
great effect upon his nervous system. After his music 
lesson, or after having improvised for any length of time, 
he was invariably overwrought and excited. One evening 
the Tchaikovskys gave a musical party at which the 
children were allowed to be present. At first Peter Ilich 
was very happy, but before the end of the evening he 
grew so tired that he went to bed before the others. 
When Fanny visited his room she found him wide awake, 
sitting up in bed with bright, feverish eyes, and crying to 
himself. Asked what was the matter, he replied, although 
there was no music going on at the time : " Oh, this music, 
this music ! Save me from it ! It is here, here," pointing 
to his head, " and will not give me any peace." 


Occasionally a Polish officer visited Votinsk. He was 
an excellent amateur and played Chopin's "Mazurkas" 
particularly well. His coming was a red-letter day for 
Peter Ilich. Once he learnt two mazurkas all by himself, 
and played them so charmingly that the officer kissed him 
when he had done. " I never saw Pierre so radiantly 
happy as that day," says Fanny. 

This is all I have been able to glean with regard to 
Peter Ilich's musical development at this period of his 


The Tchaikovsky family arrived in Moscow early in 
October, 1848. Here they were predestined to misfortune 
and disappointment. The father had confided to one of his 
friends at Votinsk that he had received the offer of a fine 
appointment. On arriving in Moscow, he discovered that 
the treacherous friend had betrayed his confidence and 
made use of the information to secure the tempting berth 
for himself. Added to this, an epidemic of cholera had 
just broken out in the town, and the children's maid 
nearly fell a victim to the disease. The uncertainty of 
their position, the absence of their father who, on hearing 
of the trick which had been played him, hastened to 
Petersburg the grim spectre of the cholera, all combined 
to make their sojourn in Moscow anything but a happy 
one. These things cut deep into the sensitive disposition 
of Peter Ilich. Just at this moment he stood in the greatest 
need of loving and careful supervision, and yet at no time 
did he suffer more from neglect, for his mother was too 
preoccupied, and too anxious about the future of the family, 
to spare time and consideration for the moods of its indi- 
vidual members. The children were left to her stepdaugh- 
ter, herself still half a child, and devoid of all experience. 





From an old Dagnerrotype) 


ZinaTda was the only one who did not make a pet of Peter, 
and it seems more than probable that the young poet 
found her anything but a just and patient teacher. Under 
these circumstances his recollections of the happy past 
became more and more idealised, and his retrospective 
yearnings more intense. 

Early in November the family removed to Petersburg 
and took up their abode on the Vassily Ostrov, near the 

Here their first impressions were more favourable than 
in Moscow. The modern capital was the mother's native 
place, and almost like home to the father. Both had many 
friends and relatives residing there. No unexpected dis- 
agreeables awaited them in St. Petersburg, and they settled 
down once again to a peaceful home life. 

But now the real trials of life began for Peter Ilich. 
Immediately after their arrival, he and his brother Nicholas 
were sent to a boarding-school. From Fanny's tender 
care they passed straight into the hands of an unsym- 
pathetic teacher, and found themselves among a host of 
boys, who received the new-comers with the customary 
greeting of whacks and thumps. The work, too, was very 
hard. They left home at eight in the morning and did 
not return till five in the afternoon. The home preparation 
was so severe that sometimes the boys sat over their books 
till midnight. Besides all this, Peter had regular music 
lessons with the pianist Philipov. Judging from the rapid 
progress he made in a short time, this teacher must have 
been thoroughly competent. Such hard work was very 
fatiguing, especially as the boys were drinking in new 
aesthetic impressions at the same time. The Tchaikovskys 
frequently took the children to the opera and theatre. 

If the singing and playing of mediocre amateurs had 
excited the future composer to such an extent that their 
music haunted him for hours ; if a mechanical organ could 
completely enchant him how infinitely more intense must 


have been the first impression made by a full orchestra! 
What an agitation, and at the same time what an unhealthy 
stimulus to his over-sensibility ! 

This nervous tension began to be apparent, not only in 
his pallor and emaciation, but in frequent ailments that kept 
him from school. There was also a moral reaction, and 
the boy became capricious, irritable, and unlike his former 

In December both brothers had measles ; but while 
in Nicholas the ailment ran its usual course, Peter's 
nervous irritability was much increased by the illness, and 
the doctors believed he was suffering from some spinal 
trouble. All work was forbidden, and the invalid rested 
until June, 1849. After a time, quiet and freedom from 
lessons improved the boy's physical health, but his moral 
character did not entirely regain its former cheerful 
serenity. The wound was healed, but the scar remained. 

Early in 1849 ^ ISL Tchaikovsky was appointed manager 
of works on the Yakovliev property at Alapaiev and 

Having left his eldest son at a boarding-school, to be 
prepared for the School of Mining Engineers, he quitted 
Petersburg with the rest of his family, and settled in the 
little town of Alapaiev. 

The position was not so brilliant as the one he had held 
under the Government, but the house was roomy and com- 
fortable, and the Tchaikovskys soon made themselves at 
home and endeavoured to revive the patriarchal style in 
which they had lived at Votinsk. 

The change from St. Petersburg, while it proved bene- 
ficial to Peter's health, did not cure his indolence, ca- 
priciousness, and irritability. On the contrary, they 
seemed to increase, because his present surroundings 
suggested comparisons with his ideal life at Votinsk, 
which were unfavourable to Alapaiev. He was lonely, 


for he missed Nicholas ; although at the same time he was 
jealous of the continual congratulations over each letter 
which came from Petersburg, announcing his brother's 
progress and success. The family were delighted, and 
compared him with Peter, whose studies did not progress 
rapidly under such an indifferent teacher as Zinaida. 
" Pierre is not himself," wrote his mother at this time. 
" He has grown idle, learns nothing, and often makes me 
cry with vexation." 

Even Peter himself confesses his indolence in a letter 
dated July ;th (ipth) : 

" MA CHERE M-ELLE FANNY, Je vous prie beaucoup 
de me pardonner que je ne vous ai ecrit si longtemps. 
Mais comme vous savez que je ne ment pas, c'est ma 
paresse qui en est cause, mais ce n'est pas I'oublie, parceque 
je Vous aime toujours comme je vous aimez avant. 
Nicholas apprend tres bien." 1 

Receiving no reply to this, he wrote again at the end of 
June. At last an answer came, in which, apparently, 
Fanny scolded her old pupil, for one of his cousins wrote 
at this time : " When your letter came, Aunty read it 
aloud, and Peterkin cried bitterly. He loves you so." 

A real improvement in the boy's character dated from 
the arrival of a new governess, Nastasia Petrov. His 
mother was soon able to report to Fanny that " Pierre is 
behaving better and learns willingly with his new teacher." 

On May 1st (i3th), 1850, twin boys were added to the 
Tchaikovsky family Anatol and Modeste. Peter Ilich 
informed Fanny of the event in the following letter : 

"[ALAPAIEV, May 2nd (14^), 1850.] 

grande joie que j'ai appris la nouvelle que vous avez un 

1 MY DEAR Miss FANNY, I beg you to forgive me for not having written 
all this time. But as you know I do not tell lies, it is my laziness that is the 
cause, not forgetf nines s t because I love you the same as before. Nicholas 
works very well, etc. 


e"leve siban et si diligent. Je veux aussi Vous apprendre, 
ma chere Fanny, une nouvelle qui peutetre Vous rejouira 
un peu ; c'est la naissance de mes freres qui sont jumeaux 
(la nuit du premier Mai). Je les ai deja vus plusieurs fois, 
mais chaque fois que je les vois je crois que ce sont des 
Anges qui ont descendu sur la terre." 1 

Meanwhile he had made great progress in music. No 
doubt he had profited greatly by Philipov's instruction, as 
well as by the other musical impressions he had received 
in Petersburg. Now, he not only played the pieces he was 
learning, but would often improvise, "just for myself alone 
when I feel sad," as he says in one of his letters. His 
musical idiom was growing richer, and music had become 
to him what poetry had been at Votinsk. Henceforth we 
hear no more about verses. He had found the right 
medium of expression for all that was in his soul. About 
this time he began to compose, although his attempts were 
merely improvisations. Musical sounds, according to his 
own account, followed him everywhere, whatever he was 
doing. His parents did nothing, however, to further his 
musical education, partly because they were afraid of a 
return of his nervous disorder, and partly because they 
had no intention of making their son a professional 
musician. No one at Alapaiev took any interest in his 
musical talent, and he kept his thoughts to himself; either 
from pride, or because as yet he had no great confidence 
in his own gifts. The fact that his character was changing 
may also have had something to do with his reserve. He 
felt he possessed something that none of his associates 
could share, and, inwardly conscious of his power, he was 
mortified that it should pass unobserved, and that no one 
should be interested in his artistic aspirations. 

1 DEAR, GOOD Miss FANNY, It is with great joy I hear the news of your 
having so good and industrious a pupil. I want also to give you some news, 
my dear Fanny, which may please you a little ; it is of the birth of my twin 
brothers (on the night of May 1st). I have already seen them several times, 
but each time I think they are angels descended to earth. 


When he went to St. Petersburg for the second time, he 
was no longer a child. His natural qualities were unchanged, 
but experience had somewhat hardened him. He was better 
fitted for the battle of life, but his susceptibilities and his 
enthusiasms were a trifle blunted. 

His young life had already a past, for he had learnt to 
suffer. Nor did the future appear any more in a rainbow 
glory, since he realised that it would bring renunciation as 
well as joy. But he carried a treasure in his heart, a light 
hidden from all eyes but his own, which was to bring him 
comfort and courage in the hour of trial. 


Early in August, 1850, Madame Tchaikovsky went to 
Petersburg, accompanied by her daughter, her stepdaugh- 
ter, and Peter Ilich. 

The parents had originally intended to place both their 
sons at the School of Mining Engineers. Their reason for 
altering this plan and sending Peter to the School of Juris- 
prudence has not transpired. Probably it was highly recom- 
mended to them by an old friend of Ilia Tchaikovsky's, 
M. A. Vakar, who had already the charge of Nicholas. This 
gentleman's brother, Plato Vakar, who was to play an im- 
portant part in the life of Peter Ilich, was a lawyer, a fine 
man with a brilliant career in prospect. It is not at all 
improbable that the Tchaikovskys resolved to send their 
son to the school of which he was such an admirable ex- 

Peter Ilich was too young to pass straight into the School 
of Jurisprudence. It was necessary that for two years he 
should attend the preparatory classes. At first, all his Sun- 
days and half-holidays were spent with his mother, who 


also visited him on every opportunity; so that in the begin- 
ning he did not feel the transition from home to school life 
so severely. But his mother could not remain in Petersburg 
after the middle of October, and then came one of the 
most terrible memories of Peter's life the day of her 

When the actual moment of parting came, he completely 
lost his self-control and, clinging wildly to his mother, re- 
fused to let her go. Neither kisses, nor words of comfort, 
nor the promise to return soon, were of any avail. He saw 
nothing, heard nothing, but hung upon her as though he 
was part and parcel of the beloved presence. It became 
necessary to carry off the poor child by force, and hold him 
fast until his mother had driven away. Even then he broke 
loose, and with a cry of despair, ran after the carriage, and 
clung to one of the wheels, as though he would bring the 
vehicle to a standstill. 

To his life's end Tchaikovsky could never recall this 
hour without a shiver of horror. This first great trouble 
of his life was only partly obliterated by a still greater 
grief the death of his mother. Although in after life he 
passed through many sad experiences, and knew disappoint- 
ment and renunciation, he could never forget the sense of 
resentment and despair which possessed him as the carriage 
containing his beloved mother passed out of sight. The 
shadow of this parting darkened the first year of his school 
life. Home-sickness and yearning effaced all other im- 
pressions, and destroyed all his earlier tendencies, desires, 
and thoughts. For two whole years it is evident from 
his letters that he lived only in the hope of seeing his 
parents again. He knew no other preoccupations or dis- 

Hardly had the boy's mother left St. Petersburg, when 
an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out in the school. The 
Vakars hastened to take Peter into their own house, but 



unhappily the boy, although he escaped illness himself, 
carried the infection with him. The eldest son, the pride 
of the home, developed the complaint and died of it. Not 
a word of reproach was breathed to Peter Ilich, the un- 
happy cause of the disaster; but the boy could not rid 
himself of the sense that the parents must regard him 
with secret bitterness. It is not surprising that just at this 
time life seemed to him cold and cheerless, and that he 
longed more than ever for his own people. 

The Vakars left Petersburg in April, 1851, and a new 
home was found for the two brothers in the family of 
M. Weiss. This change does not appear to have had much 
effect on Peter Ilich. The tone of his letters remains as 
homesick as before. But in the following May, Plato 
Vakar and his wife took the boys into their own house, 
where they remained until their parents returned to settle 
in St. Petersburg. In these surroundings Peter's spirits 
brightened perceptibly. 

In September his father came alone and spent three weeks 
with his boys. His departure was not so tragic an event 
as had been the mother's a year earlier. Peter was now 
older, and had learnt to do without his parents. Hence- 
forth his letters are calmer ; his entreaties to his mother to 
come occur less frequently, and are sometimes put in a 
playful manner. 

In May, 1852, the Tchaikovsky family returned to St. 
Petersburg. His modest savings and the pension he drew 
from the Government enabled Ilia Tchaikovsky to retire 
from work and live reunited with his children. 

This period of the composer's life offers few interesting 
events. The monotony of his schooldays was only broken 
by his Sunday exeat which was spent at home. 

In 1854 his half-sister, Zinaida, was married ; and in the 
course of the same year a tragic event took place, which 
cast a gloom over the family for long days to come. Two 


years later, in 1856, Peter Ilich refers to this loss in a letter 
to Fanny : 

" First I must give you some very sad news. A terrible 
grief befell us more than two years since. Four months 
after Zinai'da's marriage my mother was taken ill with 
cholera. Thanks to the care of her doctor, she rallied, but 
not for long. Three days later she was taken from us 
without even time to bid us good-bye." 

This occurred in July, 1854, and the troubles of the 
bereaved family did not end here. On the day of his 
wife's funeral Ilia Tchaikovsky was also seized with 
cholera ; but although for several days he was in great 
danger, his life was eventually spared to his family. In 
his bereaved condition he now found it impossible to keep 
house. Consequently the younger children were sent to 
various schools and institutions, while he himself made 
a home in the household of his brother, Peter Petrovich 
Tchaikovsky, who was then residing in Petersburg. 

The period between 1852 and 1854 had a twofold 
influence upon Tchaikovsky's character. The tears he 
had shed, the suffering he had experienced during the two 
years spent away from home, had reformed his nature, and 
brought back, in all his old candour and charm, the boy 
we knew at Votinsk. The irritability, idleness, insincerity, 
and dissatisfaction with his surroundings had now given 
place to his old frankness of character, which had formerly 
fascinated all who came in contact with him. 

On the other hand, the former freedom in which his 
mind and soul developed was now greatly restricted by 
his way of life, which, although wholesome in some 
respects, was a direct hindrance to his artistic develop- 
ment. His musical progress, which had made such strides 
between 1848 and 1849, now came to a standstill that 
lasted ten years. 

Of the thirty-nine letters written during his first two 


years of school-life, only two have any reference to music. 
Once he speaks of having played a polka for his comrades, 
and adds that he had been practising a piece learnt three 
years previously, Another time he writes to his parents 
that some day he will relate them the story of Der 
FreischutZ) and recalls having heard A Life for the Tsar 
on his first visit to Petersburg. 

It would, however, be incorrect to conclude from this 
that he lived without musical impressions. He had strong 
predilections, and, as he himself says, Weber's inspired 
creation, together with A Life for the Tsar and certain 
airs from Don Giovanni learnt by means of the orchestrion 
at Votinsk occupied the highest niches in the temple of 
his gods. But he had no one to share his musical en- 
thusiasms. At that period there was not a single amateur 
among his acquaintances. Everyone with whom he came 
in contact regarded music merely as a pastime, without 
serious significance in life. Meeting with little sympathy 
from his relatives or teachers, and even less from his 
schoolmates, he kept his secret aspirations to himself. He 
showed a certain reticence in all that concerned his music. 
When asked to play, he did so unwillingly, and hurried to 
get the performance over. But when he sat down to the 
piano, believing himself to be alone, he seemed quite ab- 
sorbed in his improvisations. 

The only person with whom he could discuss his musical 
taste was his aunt, Mme. E. A. Alexeiev. Her knowledge 
of instrumental music was limited, but she could advance 
her nephew's acquaintance with vocal especially operatic 
music. Thanks to her, he learnt to know the whole of 
Don Giovanni, and was never tired of reading the pianoforte 

"The music of Don Juan" he wrote in 1878, "was the 
first to make a deep impression upon me. It awoke a 
spiritual ecstasy which was afterwards to bear fruit. By its 
help I penetrated into that world of artistic beauty where 


only great genius abides. It is due to Mozart that I 
devoted my life to music. He gave the first impulse to my 
efforts, and made me love it above all else in the world." 

But although Tchaikovsky shrank from sharing his 
deeper musical emotions with anyone, he was quite willing 
to take part with those who regarded music as a mere 
recreation. He sang bravura airs with a facility of vocalisa- 
tion any prima donna might have envied. Once he learnt, 
with his aunt, the exceedingly florid duet in Semiramide, 
and sang the soprano part admirably. He was very proud 
of his wonderful natural shake. 

About this time one of his most characteristic peculiari- 
ties first showed itself: his docility and compliance to the 
opinions of others on all questions save those concerned 
with music. Here he would brook no interference. In 
spite of any attempts to influence his judgment in this 
respect, he adhered to his own views and followed only his 
own inward promptings. In all other matters he was 
malleable as wax. 


Tchaikovsky's school life had little or no effect upon his 
subsequent career. The period between 1852-1859 reveals 
to us not so much the evolution of an artist, as that of an 
amiable, but mediocre, official, of whom scarcely a trace 
was to be found some five years later. 

The biographical material of this period is necessarily 
very scanty, being limited to the somewhat hazy re- 
miniscences of his relatives and school friends. Naturally 
enough it did not occur to anyone to take notes of the 
comings and goings of a very ordinary young man. 

Among the masters and pupils at the School of Juris- 
prudence no one seems to have exercised any lasting 
influence, moral or intellectual, upon Tchaikovsky. 


He was studious and capable. Many of his studies in- 
terested him, but neither he, nor any of his schoolmates, 
could recall one particular subject in which he had won dis- 
tinction. On the other hand, mathematics alone seem to 
have offered any serious difficulty to him. 

The scholars of the School of Jurisprudence were drawn 
chiefly from the upper middle classes, consequently 
Tchaikovsky found himself from the first among his social 
equals. His final year was not especially brilliant, but, 
besides the composer himself, it included the poet Apukhtin 
and the famous lawyer Gerard. 

According to the latter's account, the scholars of that 
year aimed high. All took a keen interest in literature. 
Even the lower forms possessed a school magazine, to 
which Apukhtin, Maslov, Aertel, Gerard, and Tchaikovsky 
were contributors. A " History of the Literature of our 
Form," very smartly written, emanated so Maslov says 
from Tchaikovsky's pen. 

Among the composer's schoolfellows Vladimir Stepano- 
vich Adamov takes the first place. Although they spent 
but a few months in the same class, the mutual attraction 
was so strong that they remained intimate friends until 
death severed the connection. Adamov was a typical 
scholar of the hard-working kind, yet at the same time he 
had aesthetic aspirations and tastes. He was a passionate 
lover of nature and very fond of music, although he never 
became more than an indifferent amateur singer. The 
friends often went together to the Italian Opera. Adamov 
left the school with a gold medal and rose rapidly to a 
high place in the Ministry of Justice. His premature 
death in 1877 was a severe blow to Tchaikovsky, for 
Adamov was one of the few intimate friends to whom he 
cared to confide his artistic aspirations. 

Apukhtin, who came to school in 1853, at thirteen, was a 


youthful prodigy. His poetical gifts were already the ad- 
miration not only of his comrades, but of the outer world. 
He possessed the same personal charm as Tchaikovsky, 
but was far more sophisticated and self-conscious. The 
universal admiration to which he was accustomed, the 
interest of such writers as Tourgeniev and Fet, tended to 
encourage his vanity. The path to fame lay clearly before 

Apukhtin's tendencies were decidedly sceptical. He was 
the exact opposite of Tchaikovsky. Their temperaments 
were radically different. But both loved poetry, and 
shared that delicate " flair " for all that is choice that 
mysterious "something" which draws artists together, no 
matter when or where they chance to meet. The contrast 
in all other respects only served to open new horizons to 
both and draw the bonds of friendship closer. 

As a friend and schoolmate, Tchaikovsky displayed the 
same qualities which distinguished him as a child at 
Votinsk. Now, as subsequently in the Ministry of Justice, 
at the Conservatoires of Petersburg and Moscow, through- 
out Europe and across the Atlantic, we watch him drawing 
all hearts towards himself, while the circle of his friendships 
was constantly widening. 

By the time he passed out of the preparatory classes, 
his ideal faith in the order of things was shaken. He 
no longer worked with a kind of religious fervour for 
work's sake. Henceforward he did just what was necessary 
to avoid punishment and to enable him to qualify for an 
official post, without any real interest in the work. As to 
music, neither he, nor any of his circle, had any confidence 
in an artistic career. He scarcely realised in what direction 
he was drifting ; yet with the change from youth to man- 
hood came also the desire to taste the pleasures and 
excitements of life. The future appeared to him as an 
endless festival, and as nothing had come, so far, to mar 
his happiness, he gave himself up to this delightful illusion. 



With an impulsive temperament, he took life easily: a 
good-natured, careless young man, unencumbered by serious 
aspirations or intentions. 

In 1855, in consequence of the mother's death, the 
family life of the Tchaikovskys underwent great changes. 

Ilia Tchaikovsky was a good father, but he did not 
understand the education of the younger children. Realis- 
ing this fact and partly because he found his loneliness 
unbearable he now resolved to share the home of his 
brother, Peter Petrovich Tchaikovsky. 

Peter Petrovich was a white-haired man of seventy, 
every inch a soldier, who had seen many campaigns, and 
bore many honourable scars. He was exceedingly re- 
ligious, and up to the time of his marriage had led a life 
devoted to prayer, fasting, and warfare. He might have 
belonged to some mediaeval order of knighthood. Stern 
towards himself, he demanded blind obedience from his 
wife and children ; when he found that they did not 
respond to his influence, he shut himself apart in grim 
disapproval and wrote endless tracts on mystical subjects. 

Madame Peter Tchaikovsky, although a little in awe 
of her husband, permitted her children to enjoy all the 
amusements natural to their age balls, concerts, and other 
worldly dissipations. The young people of both families 
led a merry, careless existence until the spring of 1858, 
when Ilia Tchaikovsky, thanks to his over-confidence in 
humanity, suddenly lost his entire fortune and was 
obliged in his declining days to seek a new appointment. 
Fortunately this was forthcoming and, as the Director 
of the Technological Institute, he found himself once more 
in comfortable circumstances. A married sister-in-law 
Elizabeth Schobert, and her family, now joined the Tchai- 
kovsky household, established in the official residence that 
went with the new appointment. 


On May I3th (25th), 1859, Peter Ilich left the School 
of Jurisprudence and entered the Ministry of Justice as 
a first-class clerk. This event, which would have meant 
so much to any other young man, signified little to 
Tchaikovsky. He did not take his new work seriously, 
although he had no presentiment of his future destiny. 
How little his official occupations really interested him 
is evident from the fact that a few months after he had 
changed his vocation he could not remember the nature of 
his work in the Ministry of Justice. He only recollected 
one of his colleagues, because of " something rather un- 
usual that seemed to flash from his eyes." Twenty-five 
years later Tchaikovsky met this man again in the person 
of the celebrated landscape painter Volkov. 

One " traditional " anecdote, and the brief history of 
Peter Ilich as an official is complete. He had been 
entrusted with a signed document from the chief of his 
department, but on his way to deliver it he stopped to 
talk with someone, and in his absence of mind never 
noticed that, while talking, he kept tearing off scraps of 
the paper and chewing them a trick he always had with 
theatre tickets or programmes. There was nothing for it 
but to re-copy the document and, however unpleasant, to 
face his chief for a fresh signature. 

Tchaikovsky delighted in nature and the freedom of the 
country. In winter the theatre was his chief amusement, 
especially the French play, the ballet, and the Italian 
opera. He was particularly fascinated by ballets of the 
fantastic or fairy order, and gradually came to value more 
and more the art of dancing. 

The acting of Adelaide Ristori made a profound im- 
pression upon Tchaikovsky. His greatest admiration, 
however, was for the singer Lagroua. She was not a 
beautiful woman, but, in the part of Norma, she displayed 
such tragic pathos, such plastic art, that she was worthy to 
be compared with the greatest actresses. 


In 1860 Tchaikovsky's youngest sister and constant 
companion, Alexandra Ilinichna, was married to Leo Vas- 
silievich Davidov, and went to live in the Government of 
Kiev. During the following year several other members 
of the family went out into the world, so that the cheerful 
family life came to an end, and a shade of melancholy crept 
over the remainder of the household. 

At this period Tchaikovsky's attitude to his father and 
his aunts was slightly egotistical and contemptuous. This 
was only a passing phase. He was not actually wanting 
in affection for his own people, but was simply bored in 
their society. At this age he could not endure a quiet life 
at home. 

Under such auspices dawned the year 1861, destined to 
inaugurate a new epoch in the life of Tchaikovsky. 



A this time there were two music masters at the 
School of Jurisprudence. Karel, who taught 
the piano, until he was succeeded by Bekker, 
and Lomakin, the professor of singing. 
It is not known whether Tchaikovsky ever took lessons 
with Karel. With Bekker he did learn for a time, but the 
lessons made no impression upon his memory. 

The singing lessons he received from Lomakin amounted 
to little more than choral practices. Lomakin was a very 
competent man, who brought the school choir to a pitch 
of perfection ; but he had not time to train individual 
voices, consequently he exercised no direct influence on 
Tchaikovsky, although he observed his beautiful soprano 
voice and his great talent for music. 

Besides these masters, Tchaikovsky took piano lessons 
at home from Rudolf Kundinger. 

Kiindinger had come to Russia at eighteen, and de- 
lighted the public of St. Petersburg by his brilliant 
virtuosity. Having attracted many pupils, he settled in 
Petersburg. In 1855 the elder Tchaikovsky engaged him 
to teach his son. Kundinger afterwards regretted that he 
kept no record of these lessons. The boy struck him as 
talented, but nothing made him suspect the germ of a 
great composer. One thing which impressed Kundinger 
was his remarkable power of improvisation. Another was 
his fine feeling for harmony. Kundinger would often show 



his pupil his own compositions, and accept his sugges- 
tions as regards harmony, rinding them invariably to the 
point, although at that time Tchaikovsky knew nothing of 
the theory of music. 

His father consulted Kiindinger as to the wisdom of 
allowing his son to devote himself entirely to music. The 
teacher's advice was directly to the contrary. " I had to 
take into consideration the wretched status of a pro- 
fessional musician in Russia at that time," said Kiindinger 
afterwards ; " besides I had no real faith in Peter Ilich's 
gift for music." 

If such specialists as Lomakin and Kiindinger saw 
nothing phenomenal in Tchaikovsky, it is hardly surpris- 
ing that others should have failed to do so. His school 
friends valued his musical talents, but were far from 
suspecting him to be a future celebrity. His relations, 
especially his sisters and cousins, thought his improvisation 
of dance music a pleasant accomplishment, but otherwise 
regarded his music as " useless trifling." His father, alone, 
took the matter at all seriously. He engaged a good 
teacher, and encouraged his son to study steadily. In a 
word, he did all that a man could do, who knew absolutely 
nothing of music and musicians. 

Tchaikovsky had only one morning and two evenings in 
the week in which he was free to devote himself to music. 
Consequently he had no opportunity of grounding himself 
in the art. When and how could he become acquainted 
with the symphonic - masterpieces of the great German 
composers? Symphony concerts were then rare in St. 
Petersburg. The future composer had no alternative but 
to study these works in pianoforte arrangements. But such 
music was expensive and beyond his slender means. This 
explains why his musical knowledge was so limited at 
that time. We cannot say how many of the works of 
Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert he knew prior to 1861 ; 
it is certain that his knowledge was not half so extensive 


as that of any good amateur of the present day. For 
instance, he knew nothing of Schumann, nor the number 
and keys of Beethoven's symphonies. He frequented the 
Italian Opera, which was his sole opportunity of hearing a 
good orchestra, chorus, and first-rate soloists. Russian 
opera was then at a low ebb, and he only went to hear his 
favourite work, A Life for the Tsar. All the other operas 
he heard were sung by Italians. To these artists he owed 
not only his passion for Don Juan and Freischutz, but also 
his acquaintance with Meyerbeer, Rossini, Donizetti, and 
Verdi, for whom he had a genuine enthusiasm. 

During the fifties the celebrated singing master Piccioli 
was living in Petersburg. He was a Neapolitan by birth, 
who had come to the Russian capital some ten years 
earlier and settled there. His wife was a friend of Alex- 
andra Schobert, and in this way he became acquainted 
with the Tchaikovskys. Although nearly fifty, he was 
very intimate with Peter, who was but seventeen. But 
as to Piccioli's real age, no one knew the truth, for he kept 
it dark. He certainly dyed his hair and painted his face, 
and cruel tongues did not hesitate to assert that he would 
never see seventy again, and that he kept at the back of 
his head a small apparatus for smoothing out his wrinkles. 
I remember how, as children, my brother Anatol and I 
took great pains to discover this apparatus, and how we 
finally decided it must be concealed somewhere under his 
collar. As regards music, Piccioli gave utterance to such 
violently fanatical views and convictions, and knew so well 
how to defend them with persuasive eloquence, that he 
could have won over even a less pliant nature than that of 
Tchaikovsky. He acknowledged only Rossini, Bellini, 
Donizetti, and Verdi. He scorned and hated with equal 
thoroughness the symphonies of Beethoven, the works 
of Bach, A Life for the Tsar, and all the rest. Outside 
the creations of the great Italian melodists he admitted no 
music whatever. In spite of his eloquence, the Italian 


could not win over Tchaikovsky heart and soul to his way 
of thinking, because the latter was not given to partiality, 
and also because his own musical tastes were already 
firmly implanted, and could not be so easily modified. 
He carried within him an Olympia of his own, to the 
deities of which he did homage with all his soul. Never- 
theless, the friendship between himself and Piccioli re- 
mained unbroken, and to this he owed, in a great measure, 
his thorough acquaintance with the music of the Italian 
operatic school. 

Since 1850 Tchaikovsky's talent as a composer had only 
found expression in improvisations for the piano. Although 
he had composed a good many valses, polkas, and "Reveries 
de Salon," which were probably no worse than similar 
pieces invented by his " composer " friends, he could not 
bring himself to put his thoughts on paper perhaps from 
excessive modesty, perhaps from pride. Once only did he 
write out a song, composed to words by the poet Fet : " My 
genius, my angel, my friend," a mere empty amateur 
effusion. Yet, as time passed, his musical consciousness, 
his realisation of his true vocation, undoubtedly increased. 
Later in life he said, that even at school, the thought 
of becoming a composer haunted him incessantly, but, 
feeling that no one in his circle had any faith in his talents, 
he seldom mentioned the subject. Occasionally he made 
a prophetic utterance. Once, about the close of 1862, 
soon after he had joined the classes at the Conservatoire, 
he was talking to his brother Nicholas. Nicholas, who 
was one of those who did not approve of his brother's wish 
to study music, held forth on the subject, assuring him he 
had not the genius of a Glinka, and that the wretched lot 
of a mediocre musician was not an enviable one. At first 
Peter Ilich made no reply, but as they were parting he said : 
" Perhaps I shall not turn out a Glinka, but one thing 
I can assure you you will be proud some day to own me 
as a brother." The look in his eyes, and the tone in which 


he spoke these words, were never forgotten by Nicholas 

The slowness and unproductiveness of Tchaikovsky's 
musical development in the fifties was closely connected 
with his frivolous mode of life. His nature in reality 
lovable and accessible to all and his fertile genius seemed 
both hushed in a profound slumber; but at the moment 
of his awakening, his musical gifts as well as all his other 
good qualities simultaneously reappeared. With the super- 
ficial amateur vanished also the mere society man ; with 
the strenuous, zealous inquirer returned also the tender, 
grateful son, the kind and thoughtful brother. 

The change took place quite unobserved. It is difficult 
to give the exact moment of its commencement, for it was 
not preceded by any important events. Undoubtedly, it 
may be observed as early as 1861, when Peter Ilich began 
once more to think of an artistic career and entered into 
closer relationship with his family, striving to find at home 
that satisfaction for his higher spiritual needs, which he 
had failed to discover in his previous way of living. He 
had grown weary of an easy-going life, and the desire to 
start afresh made itself increasingly felt. He began to 
be afraid lest he might be overwhelmed in this slough 
of a petty, useless, and vicious existence. In the midst 
of this feverish pursuit of pleasure there came over him 
so he said moments of agonising despair. Whether 
satiety came to him from some unknown event in his life, 
or whether it gradually crept into his soul, no one can tell, 
for he passed through these heavy hours alone. Those 
around him only observed the change when it had already 
taken place, and the dawn of a new life had gladdened his 
spiritual vision. 

In a letter to his newly- married sister Alexandra, 
written in March, 1861, he speaks of an incident which 
may be regarded as the first step towards his musical 
career. His father, on his own initiative, had actually 



proposed that he should devote himself entirely to 

"At supper they were talking of my musical talent," 
writes Peter Ilich, " and father declared it was not yet too 
late for me to become an artist. If it were only true ! 
But the matter stands thus : that my talent, supposing 
I really have any, would hardly develop now. They have 
made me an official, although a poor one ; I try as hard 
as I can to improve and to fulfil my duties more con- 
scientiously, and at the same time I am to be studying 
thorough-bass ! " 

Another incident, as ordinary as the one just related, 
marks the change in Tchaikovsky's relations with his 
family, and throws a clearer light upon this revolution 
in his spiritual life. 

After the marriage of our sister Alexandra, the twins, 
Anatol and myself, then about ten years old, were often 
very lonely. From three o'clock in the afternoon when 
we returned from school until bedtime, we were left to 
our own resources. One long and wearisome evening, as 
we sat on the drawing-room window-sill kicking our heels, 
Peter came in and found us. From our earliest infancy he 
inspired us, not so much with love as with respect and 
adoration. A word from him was like a sacred treasure. 
He, on the contrary, took no notice of us ; we had no 
existence for him. 

The mere fact that he was in the house, and that we 
could see him, sufficed to distract our dullness and cheer 
us up ; but great indeed was our astonishment when, in- 
stead of passing us by unobserved as usual, he stopped to 
say : " Are you dull, boys ? Would you like to spend the 
evening with me?" To this day I cannot forget that 
memorable evening ; memorable indeed for us, since it 
was the beginning of a new existence. 

The wisest and most experienced of teachers, the dearest 
and tenderest of mothers, could not have replaced Peter 


Ilich in our life from that hour; for he was all this, and our 
friend and comrade besides. All we thought and felt we 
could tell him without any fear lest it would fail to interest 
him. His influence upon us was unbounded. We, on our 
side, became the first care and aim of his life. We three 
formed, as it were, a family within the family. A year 
later Peter wrote to his sister : 

" My attachment to these little folk grows from day to 
day. I am very proud of this feeling, perhaps the best 
which my heart has known. When I am unhappy I have 
only to think of them, and my life seems better worth 
living. I try as far as possible to give them a mother's 
love and care. . . ." 


In spite of the important conversation at the supper- 
table, in spite of the spiritual regeneration of Peter Ilich 
and the change in his relations towards his family, his life 
remained externally the same. He kept his official berth, 
and continued to go into society, frequenting dances and 
theatres. Of all the pleasures he pursued, of all the desires 
he cherished, only one remained unfulfilled a tour abroad. 

But now even this wish was to be satisfied. 

An old friend of his father's had to go abroad on busi- 
ness. As he was no linguist, it was necessary to take a 
companion who would act as interpreter, and he proposed 
that Peter Ilich should accompany him in this capacity. 
Accordingly in June, 1861, the former writes to his sister: 

"As you probably have heard already, I am to go abroad. 
You can imagine my delight. . . This journey seems to me 
at times an alluring, unrealisable dream. I shall not believe 
in it until I am actually on the steamer. I in Paris ! In 
Switzerland ! It seems ridiculous to think of it ! " 

In July Tchaikovsky started with his friend, but not by 


Their first halting-place was Berlin. In those days every 
Russian considered it his duty to run down this city. To 
this duty or rather custom Peter Ilich contributed his 
due. After he had visited Kroll's, and a dancing saloon, 
and seen Offenbach's Orphee aux Enfers, he writes with 
youthful naivete ': " Now we know our Berlin thoroughly, 
and have had enough of it ! " 

After Berlin came Hamburg, which Tchaikovsky found 
"a considerable improvement." Brussels and Antwerp 
did not please him at all. At Ostend they stayed three 
days. "It is beautiful here," he wrote. " I love the sea, 
especially when it foams and roars, and these last days it 
has been furious." 

Next they went on to London. " Our visit would be 
very pleasant were it not for the anxiety about your 
health," he wrote to his father. " Your letters are awaiting 
me in Paris, and my heart yearns for them, but we must 
remain here a few days longer. London is very interest- 
ing, but makes a gloomy impression. The sun is seldom 
visible, and it rains all the time." Here Tchaikovsky 
heard Patti for the first time, and although later in life she 
fascinated him, now he could see " nothing particular " in 

As might be expected, Paris pleased him best of all the 
towns he visited. Life in the French capital he found 
delightful. The six weeks which he spent in Paris were 
the culmination of his pleasure trip. But in the midst of 
his enjoyment he experienced a complete disenchantment 
with his travelling companion. After a series of painful 
misunderstandings they separated, and Peter Ilich re- 
turned to Russia alone about the end of September. 

Intellectually and artistically, Tchaikovsky profited 
little by this journey. Indeed, it is astonishing how little 
sensitive he seems to have been at that time to all such 
impressions. In the three months he was abroad he only 
acquired one positive piece of information where one 


could derive the greatest pleasure. And yet his journey 
was not altogether wasted. In the first place, it brought 
home to him the strength of his attachment to his own 
people. He missed the twins most of all. "Take care, 
father, that Toly and Modi 1 are not idle." "Are Toly and 
Modi working well ? " " Don't forget to tell the examiner 
that Toly and Modi are prepared for the upper division," 
so runs the gist of his letters. 

Secondly, on this journey he learnt to realise the in- 
evitable end of an idle and pleasure-seeking life, and to 
recognise that it led to nothing, and that existence held 
other and nobler aims than the pursuit of enjoyment. 
The various distractions of Parisian life brought about 
a wholesome reaction, and on the threshold of a new 
career he could look quietly on the termination of his 
former life, conscious only of an ardent desire to step from 
the shadow into God's daylight. 

Soon after his return he wrote the following letter to his 
sister : 

" October zyd (November 4^), 1861. 

" What shall I tell you about my journey ? It is better 
to say nothing. If ever I started upon a colossal piece of 
folly, it was this same trip abroad. You remember my 
companion? Well, under the mask of bonhomie, which 
made me believe him to be a worthy man, was concealed 
the most commonplace nature. You can imagine if it was 
pleasant to spend three months with such a fellow- 
traveller. Added to which I ran through more money 
than I could afford and got nothing for it. Do you see 
what a fool I have been ? But do not scold me. I have 
behaved like a child nothing more. . . . You know I have 
a weakness : as soon as I have any money I squander it in 
pleasure. It is vulgar, wanting in good sense I know it 
but it seems in my nature. Where will it all lead? 
What can I hope from the future ? It is terrible to think 
of. I know there will come a time when I shall no longer 

1 Diminutives of Anatol and Modeste. 


be able to fight against the difficulties of life. Until then 
I will do all I can to enjoy it. For the last fortnight all 
has gone badly with me ; my official work has been very 
bad. Money vanishes like smoke. In love no luck. But 
a better time will come soon. 

"P.S. I have begun to study thorough-bass, and am 
making good progress. Who knows, perhaps in three 
years' time you will be hearing my opera and singing my 


The most remarkable feature in the process of Tchai- 
kovsky's transformation from a smart Government official 
and society dandy into a musical student lies in the fact 
that, with all its apparent suddenness and irrevocableness, 
there was nothing hasty or emotional about the proceed- 
ing. Not once, by word or deed, can we discern that he 
cherished any idea of future renown. He scaled no rugged 
heights, he put forth no great powers ; but every move in 
his new career was carefully considered, steadily resolved 
upon, and, in spite of a certain degree of caution, firmly 
established. His peace of mind and confidence were so 
great that they seemed part of his environment, and all 
hindrances and difficulties vanished of their own accord 
and left the way open to him. 

The psychological aspect of this transformation, the 
pathetic side of the conflict which he sustained for over two 
years, must always remain unrevealed ; not because his 
correspondence at this time was scanty, but because Peter 
Ilich maintained a jealous guard over the secrets of his 
inner and spiritual life in which no stranger was permitted 
to intermeddle. He chose to go through the dark hours 
alone, and remained outwardly the same serene and cheer- 
ful young man as before. But if this reincarnation was 
quite ordinary in its process, it was the more radical and 


Tchaikovsky's situation is very clearly shown in four 
letters written to his sister about this period, each letter 
corresponding with one of the four phases of his evolution. 
These letters throw a clear light upon the chief psychologi- 
cal moments of these two eventful years of his life. 

The first, dated October 2$rd (November 4th), 1861, has 
been already quoted. Tchaikovsky just mentions in the 
postscript that he has begun his musical studies as a matter 
of no importance whatever and that in itself is very 
enlightening. At that moment his harmony lessons with 
Zaremba were only a detail in the life of a man of the 
world, as were the Italian conversation lessons he was 
taking at the same time. His chief interest was still his 
official career, and most of his leisure was still given up to 
social enjoyment. The second letter shows matters from 
a somewhat different point of view. Although only 
written a few weeks later, it puts his musical studies in a 
new light. On December 4th (i6th), 1861, Tchaikovsky 

" I am getting on well. I hope soon to get a rise, and be 
appointed 'clerk for special duty.' I shall get an additional 
twenty roubles to my salary and less work. God grant it 
may come to pass! ... I think I have already told you 
that I have begun to study the theory of music with 
success. You will agree that, with my rather exceptional 
talents (I hope you will not mistake this for bragging), it 
seems foolish not to try my chances in this direction. I 
only dread my own easy-going nature. In the end my 
indolence will conquer : but if not, I promise you that I 
shall do something. Luckily it is not yet too late." 

Between the second and third letters eight months 
elapsed. During this period Peter llich had to refute his 
self-condemnation as regards indolence, and to prove that 
it actually " was not yet too late " to accomplish something. 

I recollect having made two discoveries at this time 
which filled me with astonishment. The first was that 


the two ideas " brother Peter " and " work " were not 
necessarily opposed ; the second, that besides pleasant 
and interesting music, there existed another kind, exceed- 
ingly unpleasant and wearisome, which appeared never- 
theless to be the more important of the two. I still 
remember with what persistency Peter Ilich would sit at 
the piano for hours together playing the most "abomin- 
able " and " incomprehensible " preludes and fugues. . . . 
My astonishment knew no bounds when he informed me 
he was writing exercises. It passed my understanding 
that so charming a pastime as music should have any- 
thing in common with the mathematical problems we 
loathed. Outwardly Peter Ilich's life underwent one 
remarkable change. Of all his friends and acquaintances 
he now only kept up with Apukhtin and Adamov. 

Besides his work for Zaremba's classes, Tchaikovsky 
devoted many hours to the study of the classical com- 
posers. Yet, in spite of all this, his official work still re- 
mained the chief aim of his existence. During the summer 
of 1862 he was more attentive to his official duties than 
before, because in the autumn a desirable vacancy was 
expected to occur, to which he had every claim, so that 
it was important to prove to his chief, by extra zeal and 
diligence, that he was worthy of the post. His labour 
was wasted ; the place was not bestowed upon him. His 
indignation at being " passed over " knew no bounds, and 
there is little doubt that this incident had a great deal to 
do with his resolution to devote himself entirely to music. 
The last ties which bound him to the bureaucratic world 
snapped under the strain of this act of " injustice." 

Meanwhile several changes had taken place in the family 
life of the Tchaikovskys. Their aunt Madame Schobert 
had left them. Nicholas had received an appointment in 
the provinces. Hyppolite was in the navy and had been 
sent on a long voyage. The family was now reduced to 
four members the father, Peter Ilich, and the twins. The 


latter, deprived of their aunt's care, found in their brother 
more than ever both a tutor and a guardian. 

Tchaikovsky's third letter to his sister, dated September 
loth (22nd), 1862, brings us to a still more advanced 
phase of his transformation. His official work has now 
taken quite a subordinate position, while music is regarded 
as his speciality and life-work, not only by himself, but by 
all his relatives. 

" I have entered the newly-opened Conservatoire," he 
says, "and the course begins in a few days. As you 
know, I have worked hard at the theory of music during 
the past year, and have come to the conclusion that 
sooner or later I shall give up my present occupation for 
music. Do not imagine I dream of being a great artist. 
... I only feel I must do the work for which I have a 
vocation. Whether I become a celebrated composer, or 
only a struggling teacher 'tis all the same. In any case 
my conscience will be clear, and I shall no longer have 
any right to grumble at my lot. Of course, I shall not 
resign my present position until I am sure that I am no 
longer a clerk, but a musician." 

He had relinquished social gaiety. " I always have my 
midday meal at home," he wrote at this time, " and in the 
evening I often go to the theatre with father, or play cards 
with him." Soon he had not even leisure for such dis- 
tractions. His musical studies were not restricted to two 
classes in the week, but began to absorb almost all his 
time. Besides which he began to make new friends at 
the Conservatoire mostly professional musicians with 
whom he spent the rest of his leisure. 

Among these, Laroche plays so important a part in 
Tchaikovsky's artistic and intimate life that it is necessary 
to say something of his personality before proceeding 

Hermann Laroche, the well-known musical writer and 
critic, was born in St. Petersburg, May I3th (25th), 1845. 
His father, a Hanoverian by birth, was established in that 



city as a French teacher. His mother was a highly edu- 
cated woman, and was careful to make her son an accom- 
plished linguist. His musical talent was displayed at an 
early age. At ten he had already composed a march and 
an overture. He began his systematic musical education 
in 1860, at Moscow, under the guidance of Dubuque. At 
first he wished to be a virtuoso, but his teachers persuaded 
him to relinquish the idea, because his hands were not 
suited to the piano, and they laid more stress on his talent 
for composing. 

When he entered the Conservatoire in the autumn of 
1862, Laroche surpassed all his fellow-students in musical 
knowledge, and was also a highly educated and well-read 
young man. 

Tchaikovsky and Laroche met for the first time in 
October, 1862, at the class of the professor of pianoforte, 
Gerke. Hermann Laroche was then seventeen years of 
age. The important results of this friendship in Tchai- 
kovsky's after-life will be seen as this book proceeds ; at 
the outset its importance was threefold. In the first place, 
he found in this fellow-student, who was far better versed 
in musical literature than himself, an unofficial guide and 
mentor; secondly, Laroche was the first critic of Tchai- 
kovsky's school compositions the first and also the most 
influential, for, from the beginning, Peter Ilich placed the 
greatest confidence in his judgment ; and thirdly, Laroche 
supplanted all former intimacies in Tchaikovsky's life, and 
became his dearest companion and friend. The variety of 
his interests, the keenness of his critical judgments, his un- 
failing liveliness and wit, made the hours of leisure which 
Tchaikovsky now spent with him both pleasant and profit- 
able ; while Laroche's inexperience of the practical side 
of life, and his helplessness in his relations with others, 
amused Tchaikovsky and gave him an opportunity of 
helping and advising his friend in return. 

Early in 1863 Tchaikovsky resigned his place in the 


Ministry of Justice, and resolved to give himself up 
entirely to music. His material prospects were not bright. 
His father could give him board and lodging ; the rest he 
must earn for himself. But his will was firm, for by this 
time his self-confidence and love of his art had taken firm 

The fourth and last letter to his sister, which sets forth 
the reasons which induced him to give up his official 
appointment, reveals altogether a new man. 

"April i$th (27/Vfc), 1863. 

" DEAR SASHA, From your letter which reached father 
to-day, I perceive that you take a lively interest in my 
situation and regard with some mistrust the step I have 
decided to take. I will now explain to you more fully 
what my hopes and intentions really are. My musical 
talent you cannot deny it is my only one. This being 
so, it stands to reason that I ought not to leave this God- 
sent gift uncultivated and undeveloped. For this reason I 
began to study music seriously. So far my official duties 
did not clash with this work, and I could remain in the 
Ministry of Justice. Now, however, my studies grow more 
severe and take up more time, so I find myself compelled 
to give up one or the other. ... In a word, after long 
consideration, I have resolved to sacrifice the salary and 
resign my post. But it does not follow that I intend 
to get into debt, or ask for money from father, whose 
circumstances are not very flourishing just now. Certainly 
I am not gaining any material advantage. But first I 
hope to obtain a small post in the Conservatoire next 
season (as assistant professor) ; secondly, I have a few 
private lessons in view ; and thirdly what is most im- 
portant of all I have entirely renounced all amusements 
and luxuries, so that my expenditure has very much 
decreased. Now you will want to know what will become 
of me when I have finished my course. One thing I know 
for certain. I shall be a good musician and shall be able 
to earn my daily bread. The professors are satisfied with 
me, and say that with the necessary zeal I shall do well. 
I do not tell you all this in a boastful spirit (it is not my 


nature), only in order to speak openly to you without any 
false modesty. I cherish a dream ; to come to you for 
a whole year after my studies are finished to compose a 
great work in your quiet surroundings. After that out 
into the world." 

In the autumn of 1863, after a visit to Apukhtin, Tchai- 
kovsky returned to Petersburg, externally and inwardly 
a changed man. His hair had grown long, and he wore a 
somewhat shabby, but once fashionable coat, a relic of his 
" foppish days " ; so that in the new Tchaikovsky the 
former Peter Ilich was hardly recognisable. His circum- 
stances at this time were not brilliant. His father had 
taken a very modest lodging in Petersburg, and could 
give his son nothing but bare board and lodging. To 
supply his further needs, Peter Ilich took some private 
teaching which Anton Rubinstein found for him. These 
lessons brought in about fifty roubles a month (5). 

The sacrifice of all the pleasures of life did not in the 
least embitter or disturb him. On the contrary, he made 
light of his poverty, and at no time of his life was he so 
cheerful and serene as now. In a small room, which only 
held a bed and a writing-table, he started bravely on his 
new, laborious existence, and there he spent many a night 
in arduous work. 


Laroche gives the following account of the years Tchai- 
kovsky spent at the Conservatoire of St. Petersburg : 

" At the Conservatoire, founded by Anton Rubinstein in 
1 86 1, under the patronage of the Grand-Duchess Helen, 
the curriculum consisted of the following subjects : Choral 
Singing (Lomakin and Diitsch), Solo Singing (Frau Nissen- 
Soloman), Pianoforte (Leschetitzky and Beggrov), Violin 
(Wieniawsky), Violoncello (Schuberth), and Composition 
(Zaremba). Of all these subjects Tchaikovsky studied the 
last only. 


"Nicholas Ivanovich Zaremba was then forty years of 
age. A Pole by birth, he had studied law at the Univer- 
sity of St. Petersburg, and had been a clerk in one of the 
Government offices. . . Music especially composition 
he had studied in Berlin under the celebrated theorist 
Marx, whom he almost worshipped. As a composer, 
Zaremba is not known to me. Never once, either in class 
or during his private lessons, did he say so much as a word 
about his own compositions. Only on one occasion he in- 
vited Peter Ilich to his house and, when they were alone 
together, showed him the manuscript of a string quartet of 
his own. The following day Peter Ilich told me the work 
was ' very nice, in the style of Haydn.' 

" Zaremba had many of the qualities of an ideal teacher. 
Although, if I am not mistaken, teaching was somewhat 
new to him, he appeared fully equipped, with a course map- 
ped out to the smallest details, firm in his aesthetic views, 
and inventive in illustrating his subject. ... As became 
an out-and-out follower of Marx, Zaremba was a progressive 
liberal as regards music, believed in Beethoven (particularly 
in his latest period), detested the bondage of the schools, 
and was more disposed to leave his pupils to themselves 
than to restrict and hamper them with excessive severity. 
He taught on Marx's method, with one deviation : he 
followed up his harmony course by one on strict counter- 
point, using a text book of Heinrich Bellermann's. I do not 
think, however, that he taught this on his own initiative, 
but possibly at Rubinstein's expressed wish. 

" I have spoken of Zaremba as progressive. He was 
actually an enthusiastic admirer of Beethoven's later period ; 
but he stopped short at Beethoven, or rather at Mendels- 
sohn. The later development of German music, which 
started from Schumann, was unknown to him. He knew 
nothing of Berlioz and ignored Glinka. With regard to 
the latter he showed very plainly his alienation from Rus- 
sian soil. Tchaikovsky, who was more disposed towards 
empiricism, and by nature antagonistic to all abstractions, 
did not admire Zaremba's showy eloquence, nor yet that 
structure of superficial logic, from the shelter of which he 
thundered forth his violent and arbitrary views. The mis- 
understanding between pupil and teacher was aggravated 


by the fact that Zaremba most frequently cited the authority 
of Beethoven, while, following the example of his master, 
Marx, he secretly and sometimes openly despised 
Mozart. Tchaikovsky, on the contrary, had more respect 
than enthusiasm for Beethoven, and never aimed at follow- 
ing in his footsteps. His judgment was always somewhat 
sceptical ; his need of independence remarkable. During 
all the years I knew him, he never once submitted blindly 
to any influence, nor swore by anyone in verba magistri. 
His personal feelings sometimes coloured his views. 
Zaremba, however, exercised no such fascination for him. 
Neither in Tchaikovsky the composer, nor in Tchaikovsky 
the professor, do we find any subsequent traces of Zaremba's 
teaching. This is the more remarkable, because the com- 
poser went to him as a beginner to be grounded in the 
rudiments of musical theory, so that he had every oppor- 
tunity of making a deep and lasting impression. I must, 
however, relate one occurrence which partially contradicts 
my statement that Zaremba had no influence whatever 
upon his pupil. When in 1862, or the following year, I 
expressed my admiration for the energy and industry with 
which Tchaikovsky was working, he replied that when he 
first attended Zaremba's classes he had not been so zealous, 
but had worked in 'a very superficial way, like a true 
amateur/ until on one occasion Zaremba had drawn him 
aside and impressed upon him the necessity of being more 
earnest and industrious, because he possessed a fine talent. 
Deeply touched, Peter Ilich resolved to conquer his in- 
dolence, and from that moment worked with untiring zeal 
and energy. 

"From 1 86 1-2 Tchaikovsky learnt harmony, and from 
1862-3 studied strict counterpoint and the church modes 
under Zaremba, with whom, in September, 1863, he began 
also to study form ; while about the same time he passed 
into Rubinstein's class for instrumentation. 

" The great personality of the Director of the Conserva- 
toire inspired us students with unbounded affection, 
mingled with not a little awe. In reality no teacher was 
more considerate and kindly, but his forbidding appear- 
ance, his hot temper and roughness, added to the glamour 
of his European fame, impressed us profoundly. 


" Besides the direction of the Conservatoire, he taught 
the piano, and his class was the desired goal of every 
young pianist in the school, for although the other pro- 
fessors (Gerke, Dreyschock, and Leschetitzky) had ex- 
cellent reputations, they were overshadowed by Rubin- 
stein's fame and by his wonderful playing. In his class, 
which then consisted of three male students and a host of 
women, Rubinstein would often set the most comical tasks. 
On one occasion, for instance, he made his pupils play 
Czerny's " Daily Studies " in every key, keeping precisely 
the same fingering throughout. His pupils were very 
proud of the ordeals they were made to undergo, and their 
narrations aroused the envy of all the other classes. As a 
teacher of theory Anton Rubinstein was just the opposite 
of Zaremba. While the latter was remarkably eloquent, 
the former was taciturn to the last degree. Rubinstein 
spoke a number of languages, but none quite correctly. In 
Russian he often expressed himself fluently and appropri- 
ately, but his grammar was sometimes faulty, which was 
very noticeable in his exposition of a theoretical problem, 
demanding logical sequence. Yet it was remarkable that 
this deficiency in no way spoilt his lectures. With Zaremba, 
all was systematic, each word had its own place. With 
Rubinstein, reigned a fascinating disorder. I believe that 
ten minutes before the lesson he did not know what he was 
going to talk about, and left all to the inspiration of the 
moment. Although the literary form of his lectures 
suffered in consequence, and defied all criticism, they im- 
pressed us deeply, and we attended them with great 
interest. Rubinstein's extraordinary practical knowledge, 
his breadth of view, his experience as a composer almost 
incredible for a man of thirty invested his words with an 
authority of which we could not fail to be sensible. Even 
the paradoxes he indulged in, which sometimes irritated 
and sometimes amused us, bore the stamp of genius and 
thought. As I have said, Rubinstein had no system what- 
ever. If he observed in the course of a lesson that he was 
not in touch with his pupils, he was not discouraged, and 
always discovered some new way as also in his pianoforte 
class by which to impart some of his original ideas. On 
one occasion he set Tchaikovsky the task of orchestrating 


Beethoven's D minor sonata in four different ways. Peter 
Ilich elaborated one of these arrangements, introducing the 
English horn and all manner of unusual accessories, for 
which the master reprimanded him severely. I must add 
that Rubinstein was sincerely attached to Tchaikovsky, 
although he never valued his genius at its true worth. It 
is not difficult to understand this, because Tchaikovsky's 
artistic growth was perfectly normal and equal, and quite 
devoid of any startling developments. His work, which 
was generally of level excellence, lacked that brilliancy 
which rejoices the astonished teacher. 

" Rubinstein, on the contrary, cast a magic spell over 
Tchaikovsky. The pupil, who kept his complete indepen- 
dence of judgment, and even made fun of his master's lack 
of logic and grammar in his lectures, contemplated, not 
without bitterness, his mass of colourless and insipid com- 
positions. But neither the peculiarities of the teacher, nor 
the ever-increasing weakness of his works, could under- 
mine Tchaikovsky's regard for him as a man. This senti- 
ment remained with him to the last, although his relations 
with Anton were never so intimate as with his brother, 
Nicholas Rubinstein. At this period of our lives Tchai- 
kovsky's personal respect for his master was of the greatest 
service to him. It made his work easier and gave impulse 
to his powers. Rubinstein observed his pupil's zeal, and 
made increasing demands upon his capacity for work. But 
the harder the tasks set him, the more energetic Tchaikov- 
sky became. Sometimes he spent the whole night upon 
some score he wished to lay before his insatiable teacher 
on the following day. This extraordinary industry does 
not appear to have injured his health. 

"The silent protest Tchaikovsky raised against Zaremba's 
methods affected in a lesser degree his relations with 
Rubinstein. The latter had grown up in the period 
of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann, and recognised 
only their orchestra, that is, the orchestra of Beethoven, 
with the addition of three trombones natural horns and 
trumpets being replaced by chromatic ones. We young 
folk, however, were enthusiasts for the most modern 
of orchestras. Tchaikovsky was familiar with this style 
of orchestration from the operas of Meyerbeer and Glinka. 


He also heard it at the rehearsals of the Musical Society (to 
which, as students, we had free access), where Rubinstein 
conducted works by Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner. 
Finally, in 1862, Wagner himself visited Petersburg, and 
made us acquainted in a series of concerts, not only with 
the most famous excerpts from his earlier operas, but also 
with portions of the Nibelungen Ring. It was not so much 
Wagner's music as his instrumentation which impressed 
Tchaikovsky. It is remarkable that, with all his love for 
Mozart, he never once attempted, even as a tour de force, to 
write for the classical orchestra. His medium of expression 
was the full modern orchestra, which came after Meyerbeer. 
He did not easily acquire the mastery of this orchestra, but 
his preference for it was already established. Rubinstein 
understood it admirably, and explained its resources 
scientifically to his pupils, in the hope that having once 
learnt its secrets, they would lay it aside for ever. In 
this respect he experienced a bitter disappointment in 

" In spring the students were generally set an important 
task to be completed during the summer holidays. In the 
summer of 1 864 Tchaikovsky was expected to write a long 
overture on the subject of Ostrovsky's x drama, The Storm. 
This work he scored for the most ' heretical ' orchestra : 
tuba, English horn, harp, tremolo for violins divisi, etc. 
When the work was finished he sent it to me by post, with 
the request that I would take it to Rubinstein (I cannot 
remember why he could not attend in person). I carried 
out his wish, and Rubinstein told me to return in a few 
days to hear his opinion. Never in the course of my life 
have I had to listen to such a homily on my own sins 
as I then endured vicariously (it was Sunday morning 
too !). With unconscious humour, Rubinstein asked : 
* How dared you bring me such a specimen of your own 
composition/ and proceeded to pour such vials of wrath 
upon my head that apparently he had nothing left for the 
real culprit, for when Peter Ilich himself appeared a few 
days later, the Director received him amiably, and only 
made a few remarks upon the overture. . . . 

1 The greatest Russian dramatist. His most celebrated plays are : The 
Storm, The Forest, The Poor Bride, Snow White, The Wolf and the Sheep. 


"One of Rubinstein's most urgent desires was the or- 
ganisation of a school orchestra. In the early days of 
the Conservatoire, however, there was no immediate hope 
of realising this wish. Apart from the numerous violinists, 
attracted by the name of Wieniawsky, there were few, 
during the first year, who could play any other orchestral 
instrument even tolerably well. Rubinstein, who at that 
time had no great income, spent at least 1,500 roubles 
in the gratuitous tuition of those instruments he needed 
for his orchestra. There was an immediate response 
among those who were enterprising. Tchaikovsky ex- 
pressed a wish to learn the flute. He studied for two 
years, and became a satisfactory second flute in this 
orchestra. On one occasion he took part in a flute 
quartet of Kuhlau's at a musical evening in honour 
of Madame Clara Schumann's visit to Petersburg. After- 
wards, finding no special use for this accomplishment, he 
gave it up entirely. 

"Of even less importance were the organ lessons he took 
for a time from the famous Heinrich Stiehl. The majestic 
tone of this instrument, heard in the mystic twilight of 
the empty Lutheran church in Petersburg, made a pro- 
found impression upon Tchaikovsky's poetic temperament. 
But the impression was fleeting ; his imagination was 
attracted in other directions, and he grew more and more 
remote from the works of Bach. He never composed a 
single piece for this instrument." 


"In the biography of an artist," continues Laroche, 
"side by side with his individual evolution, the close 
observation of all external influences with which he 
comes in contact plays an important part. In Tchaikov- 
sky's case, I place among these influences, the musical 
repertory which was familiar to him, and such composi- 
tions as he specially studied or cared for. During the 
whole of his time at the Conservatoire, especially during 


the first two years, I was constantly with him, and am 
therefore a fair judge of the works which more or less left 
their impress upon his mind. I can enumerate almost 
all the compositions we played together during his first 
year : Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Schumann's Third 
Symphony, his Paradise and the Peri, and Lohengrin. 
Tchaikovsky grumbled when I made him play long vocal 
works with endless recitatives, which became very weari- 
some on the piano, but the beauty of the more connected 
parts soon re-awakened his enthusiasm. Wagner gave 
him the least pleasure. He simply made light of Lohengrin, 
and only became reconciled to the whole opera much later 
in life. 

" One day he remarked fearlessly : c I am sure of this 
Serov has more talent for composition than Wagner.' 
Schumann's Third Symphony and Rubinstein's ' Ocean ' 
Symphony made the greatest impression upon him. Later 
on, under the baton of the composer, our enthusiasm for the 
latter continually increased. Many readers will be surprised 
to hear that one of Tchaikovsky's earliest crazes was for 
Henri Litolff but only for the two overtures, Robespierre 
and Les Girondistes. I can say without exaggeration that, 
after hearing these two overtures and Meyerbeer's Stru- 
ensee, Tchaikovsky was always an impassioned lover of 
programme music. In his early overtures, including Romeo 
and Juliet, the influence of LitolfT is easily perceptible, 
while he approached Liszt who did far more to inspire the 
young generation with hesitation and mistrust. During 
his student years, Orpheus was the only one of Liszt's 
symphonic poems which attracted him. The Faust Sym- 
phony he only valued long afterwards. It is but fair to 
state that Liszt's symphonic poems, which enslaved a 
whole generation of Russian composers, only exercised 
an insignificant and ephemeral influence upon Tchai- 

" It is important to observe that, at this early period, 
he showed many curious and morbid musical antipathies 
which he entirely outgrew. These dislikes were .not 
for particular composers, but for certain styles of com- 
position, or, more strictly speaking, for their quality of 
sound. For instance, he did not like the combination 


of piano and orchestra, nor the timbre of a string quartet 
or quintet, and least of all the effect of the piano with 
one or more stringed instruments. Although, for the 
sake of experience, he had studied the general repertory 
of chamber music and pianoforte concertos, and now 
and then was charmed by a work of this nature, he 
afterwards took the first opportunity of condemning its 
'detestable' quality of tone. Not once, but hundreds of 
times, he has vowed in my presence never to compose 
a pianoforte concerto, nor a violin and piano sonata, 
nor any work of this class. As regards the violin 
and pianoforte sonata, he has kept his word. Not less 
strange was his determination, at this time, never to write 
any small pieces for piano, or songs. He spoke of the 
latter with the greatest dislike. But this hatred must 
have been quite Platonic, for the next minute he was 
growing enthusiastic with me over the songs of Glinka, 
Schumann, or Schubert. 

" At this period in his life it was a kind of mania to 
declare himself quite incapable in certain branches of his 
art. For instance, he often declared he was absolutely 
unable to conduct. The art of conducting goes frequently 
with that of accompanying, and he was an excellent 
accompanist. This fact alone should have sufficed to 
prove the groundlessness of his assertions. At the Con- 
servatoire the advanced students in the composition class 
were expected to conduct the school orchestra in turn. 
Tchaikovsky stood first on the list. I cannot remember 
whether he distinguished himself on this occasion, but I 
know that nothing particularly dreadful happened, and 
that he made no evident fiasco. Nevertheless he made 
this first experience the confirmation of his opinion. He 
declared that having to stand at the raised desk in front of 
the orchestra produced such nervous sensations that all 
the time he felt his head must fall off his shoulders ; in 
order to prevent this catastrophe, he kept his left hand 
under his chin and only conducted with his right. This 
fixed idea lasted for years. 

"In 1868 Tchaikovsky was invited to conduct the 
dances from his opera The Voyevode at a charity concert 
given in Moscow. I still see him before me, the baton 


in his right hand, while his left firmly supported his fair 
beard ! 

" Tchaikovsky s ardent admiration for Glinka, especially 
for the opera A Life for the Tsar, included also this com- 
poser's incidental music to the tragedy Prince Kholmsky. 
As regards Russian and Lioudmilla, his views varied at 
first. Early in the sixties he knew only a few numbers 
from Glinka's second opera, which pleased him unre- 
servedly. He was equally delighted with the music and 
libretto of Serov's opera Judith, which he heard in 1863. 
It is remarkable that while a few masterpieces, such as 
Don Juan, A Life for the Tsar, and Schubert's Symphony 
in C, took their places once and for ever in his apprecia- 
tion, his judgment of other musical works was subject 
to considerable fluctuation. One year he was carried away 
by Beethoven's Eighth. Symphony, the next he pronounced 
it 'very nice, but nothing more.' For years he declared 
the music to Faust by Pugni (a well-known composer 
of ballets) was infinitely superior to Gounod's opera, and 
afterwards he described the French composer's work as 
'a masterpiece.' Therefore it is all the more remarkable 
that he remained faithful to Serov's opera Judith to the end 
of his days. 

" His attitude to Serov's literary work was exceedingly 
sceptical. We both attended the popular lectures given by 
this critic in 1 864, and were amused at his desperate efforts 
to overthrow the authority of the Conservatoire, to abase 
Glinka and to exalt Verstovsky. 1 Serov's attack upon 
Rubinstein would in itself have lowered him in the eyes 
of so devoted an adherent as Tchaikovsky, but he disliked 
him still more for such expressions as 'the spiritual con- 
tents of music/ 'the organic unity of the music drama/ 
and similar phrases, under which Serov concealed his 
vacillation and extraordinary lack of principle. 

"Tchaikovsky's personal relations with the composer 
of Judith are only known to me in part. They met, if 
I am not mistaken, in the autumn of 1864, and I was 
the means of their becoming acquainted. One of our 
fellow-students named Slavinsky, who visited Serov, invited 

1 Alexis Nicholaevich Verstovsky, the composer of a popular opera, Askold's 


me to go with him to one of his ' composer's Tuesdays.' 
About a year later I introduced Tchaikovsky to Serov. I 
recollect how on that particular evening Dostoievsky talked 
a great deal and very foolishly about music, as literary 
men do, who know nothing whatever about it. Serov's 
personality did not please Tchaikovsky, and I do not think 
he ever went again, although he received a pressing invita- 
tion to do so. 

"Besides N. A. Hubert and myself, I cannot recall a 
single student at the Conservatoire with whom Tchai- 
kovsky kept up a lasting intimacy. He was pleasant to all, 
and addressed a few in the familiar second person singular. 
Among these passing friends I may mention Gustav Kross, 
afterwards the first to play Tchaikovsky's pianoforte con- 
certo in public ; Richard Metzdorf, who settled in Germany 
as a composer and Capellmeister ; Karl van Ark, who 
became a professor at the Petersburg Conservatoire ; 
Slavinsky and Joseph Lodscher. Of these fellow-students, 
the name of Nicholas Hubert occurs most frequently in 
subsequent pages. In spite of his foreign name, Hubert 
was really of Russian descent. From his childhood he 
lived only in and for music, and very early in life had 
to earn his living by teaching. The number of lessons he 
gave, combined with his weak and uncertain health, pre- 
vented him from working very hard at the Conservatoire, 
but he impressed us as talented and clever. He was fond 
of assembling his friends round the tea-table in his large, 
but scantily-furnished room, when the evening would be 
spent in music and discussion. Tchaikovsky, Lodscher 
and myself were the most regular guests at these evenings. 
The real intimacy, however, between Tchaikovsky and 
Hubert did not actually begin until many years later 
about the middle of the eighties." 

With this chapter Laroche's reminiscences of Tchai- 
kovsky come to an end. 



In the autumn of 1863 the mother of Leo Davidov, who 
had married Tchaikovsky's sister, came to settle in St. 

Alexandra Ivanovna, widow of the famous Decembrist, 
Vassily Davidov, was a vigorous, kindly clever old lady, 
who had seen and suffered much in her day. Of her very 
numerous family, four daughters and her youngest son had 
accompanied her to Petersburg. Two of these daughters, 
Elizabeth and Vera, became very friendly with Tchai- 
kovsky, thanks to their common love of music. 

Peter Ilich never felt more at home than at the 
Davidovs. Apart from the pleasure of acting as a guide 
to Vera in musical matters introducing her to the works 
of Schumann, Berlioz, and Glinka, whose charm he had 
only just discovered for himself he thoroughly enjoyed 
talking to her mother and sister. 

Tchaikovsky was always deeply interested in his 
country's past, especially in the period of Catherine II. 
and Alexander I. Alexandra Davidov was, so to speak, 
a living chapter of history from the last years of Alex- 
ander's reign, and had known personally many famous 
men of the time, among them the poet Poushkin, who 
often visited the Davidovs at Kamenka. Consequently 
Tchaikovsky delighted in hearing her recall the joys and 
sorrows of those far-off days. 

Her daughter Elizabeth, an elderly spinster, also 
excited his interest. She had been entrusted by her 
mother, when the latter had voluntarily followed her 
husband into exile, to the care of Countess Tchernischov- 
Kruglikov, and grew up in a house frequented by all 
the notabilities of the early years of Nicholas I.'s reign. 



She knew Gogol and Poushkin, and had made many 
journeys to Europe and Siberia. Besides which she 
was deeply interested in art and literature, and had a 
decided talent for drawing. 

Among the few acquaintances who continued to show a 
friendly attitude to Tchaikovsky, in spite of his becoming 
a musician, was Prince Alexis Galitsin. He helped the 
struggling student and teacher by recommending him to 
private pupils, and invited him to spend the summer on 
his estate, Trostinetz, in the Government of Kharkov. 

Life at the Prince's country-seat seemed to Tchai- 
kovsky like a fairy tale. One event will suffice to show 
the attention with which he was treated by his host. On 
his name-day, June 29th (July nth), the Prince gave an 
entertainment in his honour. After early service there 
was a breakfast, and in the evening, after dark, a walk 
through the forest, the paths being illuminated by torches, 
which made a grand effect. In the heart of the woods a 
tent had been raised, in which a banquet was prepared ; 
while, on the open green around it, all kinds of national 
amusements were organised in honour of the musician. 

During this visit, Tchaikovsky composed and orches- 
trated his first independent musical work, the overture to 
his favourite Russian play, The Storm, by Ostrovsky. He 
had already hankered to write an opera on this play, 
consequently when Rubinstein set him to compose an 
overture by way of a holiday task, he naturally selected 
the subject which had interested him for so long. On 
page 30 of his instrumentation sketch-book for 1863-4 
he made a pencil note of the programme of this 
overture : 

" Introduction ; adagio (Catharine's childhood and life 
before marriage) ; allegro (the threatening of the storm) ; 
her longing for a truer love and happiness ; allegro 
appassionato (her spiritual conflict). Sudden change to 
evening on the banks of the Volga : the same conflict, 


but with traces of feverish joy. The coming of the storm 
(repetition of the theme which follows the adagio and the 
further development of it). The Storm : the climax of 
her desperate conflict Death." 

The next important composition, which was not lost, 
like so many of Tchaikovsky's early works, was the 
" Dances of the Serving Girls," afterwards employed as a 
ballet in his opera, The Voyevode. It is impossible to fix 
the precise date at which these dances were composed, 
but early in 1865 they were already finished and orches- 


In 1865 Tchaikovsky's father married for the third time 
a widow, Elizabeth Alexandrov. This event made no 
difference to the life of Peter Ilich, for he was attached to 
his stepmother, whom he had known for several years, and 
to whom he often went for advice in moments of doubt 
and difficulty. The summer of this year was spent with 
his sister at Kamenka. 

Kamenka, of which we hear so much in the life of Peter 
Ilich, is a rural spot on the banks of the Tiasmin, in the 
Government of Kiev, and forms part of the great estate 
which Tchaikovsky's brother-in-law had inherited from the 
exiled Decembrist Vassily Davidov. The place has his- 
torical associations, having been the centre of the revolu- 
tionary movement which disturbed the last years of 
Alexander I. Here, too, the poet Poushkin came as a visi- 
tor, and his famous poem, " The Prisoner in the Caucasus," 
is said to have been written at Kamenka. The property 
actually belonged to an elder brother, Nicholas Davidov, 
who practically resigned it to the management of Tchai- 
kovsky's brother-in-law, preferring the pleasures of his 
library and garden to the responsibilities of a great land- 


Kamenka did not boast great natural charms, neverthe- 
less Tchaikovsky enjoyed his visit there, and soon forgot 
the luxuries of Trostinetz. 

Nicholas Davidov, although a kindly and sympathetic 
nature, held decided opinions of his own, which were not 
altogether in keeping with the liberalism then in vogue. 
This strong-minded man, who thought things out for him- 
self, impressed Tchaikovsky, and changed his political out- 
look. Throughout life the composer took no very strong 
political views ; his tendencies leaned now one way, now 
another; but from the time of his acquaintance with 
Nicholas Davidov his views were more disposed towards 
conservativism. It was, however, the happy household at 
Kamenka that exercised the greatest influence upon 
Tchaikovsky. Henceforth his sister's family became his 
favourite refuge, whither, in days to come, he went to rest 
from the cares and excitements of life, and where, twelve 
years later, he made a temporary home. 

Perhaps these pleasant impressions were also strengthened 
by the consciousness of work well accomplished. Anton 
Rubinstein had set him a second task the translation 
of Gevaert's treatise on Instrumentation. This he carried 
out admirably, besides the composition of the overture. 

At Kamenka he had one disappointing experience. 
He had heard so much of the beauty of the Little Russian 
folk-songs, and hoped to amass material for his future 
compositions. This was not to be. The songs he heard 
seemed to him artificial and retouched, and by no means 
equal in beauty or originality to the folk melodies 
of Great Russia. He only wrote down one song while at 
Kamenka a tune sung daily by the women who worked 
in the garden. He first used this melody in a string 
quartet, which he began to compose in the autumn, but 
afterwards changed it into the Scherzo a la russe for piano- 
forte, Op. i. No. i. Towards the end of August, Tchai- 
kovsky returned to Petersburg with his brothers. 


" Petersburg welcomed us with a deluge of rain," he 
wrote to his sister on his return. But in many other 
respects also the town made an unfavourable impression 
upon Tchaikovsky. In the first place, the question of a 
lodging gave him considerable trouble. The room which 
he had engaged for eight roubles a month was small and 
uncomfortable. The longer he stayed, the more he dis- 
liked it. He tried various quarters without finding the 
quiet which was the first essential, and, in November, 
finally took possession of a room lent him by his friend, 
Apukhtin, who was going away for a time. 

Another unpleasant experience took the form of an 
obstinate affection of the eyes, which hindered him from 
working regularly. Lastly, he began to feel some anxiety 
as to his future livelihood when his course at the Conserva- 
toire should have come to an end. To continue in his 
present course of existence seemed to him terrible. The 
small income, which hitherto only had to serve him for 
his lesser needs, had now to cover board and lodging 
in fact, his entire expenses. 

We may guess how hard was his struggle with poverty, 
when we find him once more assailed by doubts as to 
his wisdom in having chosen the musical profession, and 
even contemplating the idea of returning to the service 
of the State. Some of his frfends echoed his momentary 
cry of weakness. One seriously proposed that he should 
accept the fairly good pay of an inspector of meat. To 
the great advantage of all consumers, and to the glory 
of Russian music, the proposal came to nothing. 

Simultaneously with Tchaikovsky's hardest struggle for 
existence, came also the first hopes of artistic success. 
These triumphs were very modest as compared to those 
which lay in store for him ; but at that period of his life 
the praise of his masters, the applause of his fellow-students, 
and the first public performance of his works, sufficed to 
fill him with happiness and self-confidence. The perform- 


ance of his " Dances of the Serving Maids," at one of the 
summer concerts at Pavlovsk, conducted by the "Valse 
King," Johann Strauss, greatly cheered the young com- 

His satisfaction was still further increased when Nicholas 
Rubinstein, following the example of his illustrious brother, 
resolved to open a Conservatoire in Moscow, and engaged 
Tchaikovsky as Professor of Harmony. 

Nicholas Rubinstein had first approached Serov, who 
was not unwilling to accept the post. But the extra- 
ordinary success of his opera Rogneda in St. Petersburg, 
and the failure of Judith in Moscow, caused him to change 
his mind and wish to remain in that capital where he was 
best appreciated. This took place in 1865. Nicholas 
Rubinstein, seeing no other way out of the difficulty, 
decided to offer the professorship to one of the students 
of the Petersburg Conservatoire, and his brother put 
forward the claims of Tchaikovsky. Although the honour 
was great, the emolument was not attractive, for it 
amounted only to fifty roubles (5) a month ; that is to 
say, to something less than the modest income he had 
hitherto managed to earn in Petersburg. Nevertheless, 
in November, he decided to accept the post. 

The remaining successes of this period relate to his 

In spite of his eyes being affected, and his constant 
change of quarters, the time had not been barren. He 
had composed a string quartet in Bt? major, 1 and an 
overture in F major. 2 The quartet was played at one 
of the pupils' concerts at the Conservatoire, October 3Oth 
(November nth), 1865, and a fortnight later the overture 
was performed by the school orchestra, under the baton of 
the composer. 

1 Of this quartet only the first movement remains intact. The others 
must have been destroyed by the composer at a later date. 

2 Tchaikovsky afterwards arranged this overture for full orchestra, in which 
form it was given several times in Moscow and Petersburg. 


In November of this year, Tchaikovsky set to work upon 
a cantata for chorus and orchestra, a setting of Schiller's 
Ode to Joy)- 

This task had been set him by Anton Rubinstein, and 
was intended for performance at the prize distribution, 
which took place at the end of the school year. On 
December 3ist, 1865 (January I2th, 1866), the cantata was 
performed by the pupils of the Conservatoire in the pre- 
sence of the Directors of the Russian Musical Society, the 
Board of Examiners, the Director of the Court Chapel, 
Bachmetiev, and the Capellmeisters of the Imperial Opera, 
Kajinsky, Liadov and Ricci. 

The composer himself was not present, as he wished to 
avoid the vivd voce examination, which ought to have pre- 
ceded the performance of the cantata. Anton Rubinstein 
was exceedingly displeased, and threatened to withhold 
Tchaikovsky's diploma until he submitted to this public 
test. Matters were not carried so far. Apparently the 
young composer had given sufficient proof of his knowledge 
in the cantata itself, and he received not only his diploma, 
but a silver medal in addition. 

In spite of this official success, the cantata did not win 
the approval of the musical authorities. 

Evidently Rubinstein was not satisfied with it, since he 
put off Tchaikovsky's request that the cantata might be 
performed by the Russian Musical Society, by saying that 
he could only agree on condition that " great alterations " 
were made in the score, for in its original form it was not 
good enough to place beside the works of other Russian 
composers Sokalsky, Christianovich, Rimsky-Korsakov, 
and Balakirev. Serov's opinion of this composition was 
not more favourable. 

In the opposite camp to Serov among that young 
Russian school which flocked round Dargomijsky, and 

1 The manuscript of this cantata is in the archives of the St. Petersburg 


included Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Caesar Cui, the 
cantata met with even less approval. Three months after 
its performance Cui, then critic of the St. Petersburg 
Viedomosti) wound up his notice of the work as follows : 

" In a word, I will only say that composers of the calibre 
of Reinthaler and Volkmann will probably rejoice over 
Mr. Tchaikovsky's cantata, and exclaim, ( Our number is 
increased/ " 

Such were the judgments passed upon his first work by 
the musical lights and the Press. 

Laroche, however, was of a different opinion. He sent 
the following letter to Tchaikovsky in Moscow : 


"January nth (23^), 1866. 

"... I will tell you frankly that I consider yours is the 
greatest musical talent to which Russia can look in the 
future. Stronger and more original than Balakirev, loftier 
and more creative than Serov, far more refined than 
Rimsky-Korsakov. In you I see the greatest or rather the 
sole hope of our musical future. Your own original crea- 
tions will probably not make their appearance for another 
five years. But these ripe and classic works will surpass 
everything we have heard since Glinka. To sum up: I do 
not honour you so much for what you have done, as for 
what the force and vitality of your genius will one day 
accomplish. The proofs you have given so far are but 
solemn pledges to outdo all your contemporaries." 




^CHAIKOVSKY'S first impressions of Moscow 
practically resolve themselves into his associa- 
tion with a few Muscovites, with whom he was 
destined to be linked to the end of his days. 
His subsequent life is so inseparably connected with the 
narrow circle of his friends in the old capital, that the 
reader needs to be introduced to some of them individu- 
ally, before I pass on to my brother's career as a teacher 
and composer. 

At the head of these musical friends stands Nicholas 
Rubinstein, of whom it is no exaggeration to say that he 
was the greatest influence throughout Tchaikovsky's after 
career. No one, artist or friend, did so much for the 
advancement of his fame, gave him greater support and 
appreciation, or helped him more to conquer his first 
nervousness and timidity, than the Director of the Moscow 
Conservatoire. Nicholas Rubinstein is intimately associ- 
ated with every event in Tchaikovsky's private and public 
life. Everywhere we shall come upon traces of his helpful 
influence. It is not too much to assert that, during the 
first years of Tchaikovsky's life there, all Moscow was 
personified in Nicholas Rubinstein. 

Laroche, in his Reminiscences, gives the following sketch 
of the director : 

"Nicholas Rubinstein was born June 2nd (i4th), 1835. 
Like his celebrated brother, he showed a remarkable and 



precocious talent for music. It is said he learnt quicker, 
and was considered to have more genius than Anton. But 
while the latter devoted himself entirely to music and 
studied in Berlin, Nicholas elected for a university educa- 
tion. . . . As a student at the Moscow University, and 
even later until the establishment of the Russian Musical 
Society he earned his living by teaching the pianoforte. 
He had a number of pupils, and, as he himself told me, 
earned at one time as much as 7,000 roubles (over 700) a 
year. On his marriage he was compelled to give up 
playing in public, on account of the objections raised by 
his wife's relations. His domestic life was not happy, and 
the differences of opinion between himself and his wife's 
family led to a rupture two years later. His unusual 
powers were first recognised when he succeeded in founding 
the Moscow Conservatoire. Besides being a most gifted 
pianist, he had great talent as a conductor, and organiser of 
many schemes. He could represent all branches of musical 
society in his own person. Although he spent all his 
nights at the ' English Club,' playing cards for high stakes, 
he managed to take part in every social event, and was 
acquainted with all circles of Moscow society, commercial, 
official, artistic, scientific, and aristocratic." 

"As regards art," says Kashkin, "Nicholas Rubinstein was 
purely an idealist ; he admitted no compromise, and was 
entirely above personal likes or dislikes. He was always 
ready to help a fellow-artist, especially a Russian, and, 
without stopping to consider his means, simply gave what- 
ever he had by him at the moment 

" Externally he differed greatly from his brother Anton. 
Nicholas Rubinstein was short and stoutly built ; fair- 
complexioned, with curly hair. He had a dreamy ex- 
pression, a languor of speech, and an air of aristocratic 
weariness, which was contradicted by the indefatigable 
energy of his temperament. Probably this languor pro- 
ceeded from the fact that he scarcely ever slept. 

" He was Tchaikovsky's senior by five years only ; but in 
these early days of their intercourse the difference be- 
tween their ages seemed much greater. This was partly 
accounted for by the fact that Tchaikovsky came to 


Moscow in a somewhat subordinate position, whereas the 
name of Rubinstein was one of the most popular in the 
town ; but the difference in character was also very great. 
Rubinstein belonged to the class of dominating and ruling 
personalities ; his was a forceful character which impressed 
all who came in contact with him. Tchaikovsky, on the 
contrary, was yielding and submissive in matters of daily 
existence, although inwardly he protested against all 
attempts to influence and coerce him, and generally pre- 
served his freedom of opinion, at least as regards music. 
This self-assertion did not, however, come naturally to him, 
and for that reason he loved solitude. He avoided his 
fellow-men, because he did not know how to hold his own 
among them ; while at the same time he disliked submitting 
to the will of others, but this was not his attitude in 1866. 
At this time he was grateful for Nicholas Rubinstein's 
almost paternal care, and bowed to his decision, even in the 
matter of dress. 

"Their friendly relations were sometimes strained, but 
never broken, although Peter Ilich was occasionally irri- 
tated by Rubinstein's masterful guidance, and was scolded 
in return for not being sufficiently docile." 

"Rubinstein's right hand," says Laroche, "was Con- 
stantine Albrecht, the Inspector of the Conservatoire. He 
was about five years older than Tchaikovsky, and had held 
the post of 'cellist at the Opera House since the age of 
fifteen. Albrecht was a very capable and, in many respects, 
a very interesting man, although he was not popular with 
the public. Tchaikovsky was strongly attracted to him, 
and soon after his arrival in Moscow arranged to take his 
meals daily at his house. Albrecht's views, or rather con- 
victions, were extraordinarily paradoxical. 

" In politics he took the Conservative side, but as regards 
music he was probably the most advanced radical in 
Moscow. Wagner, Liszt, Beethoven in his last period, 
and certain things of Schumann, were all he would 
acknowledge. I must add, by way of an eccentricity, his 
admiration for Dargomijsky's Roussalka. He was an 
admirable choral conductor, and did good work in this 
branch of his art, for many of the pupils trained by him 


turned out excellent teachers. Besides music, Albrecht 
took great interest in natural science and mathematics. In 
summer he was an enthusiastic hunter of beetles and 
butterflies. But for the subjects in which a musician 
should be interested history, poetry, belles-lettres he 
showed the most complete indifference. I doubt if he had 
ever read a novel. . . ." 

Tchaikovsky had a very high opinion of Albrecht as a 
composer, and often regretted that so much talent should 
be wasted. But it was his kindliness of heart, and above 
all his innate sense of humour, which appealed most to 
Peter Ilich. 

Very different, and far more important, were Tchai- 
kovsky's relations with P. I. Jurgenson, the first and 
always the chief publisher of his works. 

Peter Ivanovich Jurgenson was born at Reval in 1836, 
and his childhood was spent in very poor and depressing 
circumstances. At nineteen he entered a music ware- 
house in Petersburg, where he soon won his employer's 
confidence, and rose to be manager to the firm of Schild- 
bach, in Moscow. Two years later, in 1861, he made a 
daring venture and set up business on his own account. 
In Nicholas Rubinstein he found a powerful friend and 
ally, who supported his enterprise for twenty years with 
unfailing energy. By 1866 Jurgenson had passed through 
his worst experiences, and began to play a prominent part 
in the musical life of Moscow. Courageous and enter- 
prising, he was one of the most active adherents of 
Nicholas Rubinstein, that " Peter the Great " of musical 
Moscow, to whom he rendered valuable assistance in 
founding the Conservatoire. Jurgenson was the first 
Russian publisher to bring out the works of the classical 
school in cheap editions, and also the compositions of 
young native composers, including those of Tchaikovsky. 

Although he came from the Baltic provinces, Jurgen- 
son was an ardent Russian patriot, and soon won the 


affection of Peter Ilich, who was always a welcome guest 
in his house. 

At the present moment the firm of Jurgenson is almost 
the sole possessor of Tchaikovsky's compositions. Among 
the 200,000 engraving-plates which are preserved in their 
fireproof safes more than 70,000 belong to the works of 
this composer. 

The fourth of Tchaikovsky's intimate friends, Nicholas 
Kashkin, received him on his arrival with the cordiality of 
an old comrade, for he already knew him from Laroche's 
enthusiastic description. 

"... Nicholas Dmitrievich Kashkin was the son of a 
well-known and respected bookseller in the town of 
Voronejh," says Laroche in his reminiscences. From 
childhood he displayed great aptitude for the piano, and 
by dint of self-teaching, made such progress that he could 
execute difficult music, and was highly thought of in his 
native place. Yet he was conscious that he lacked proper 
training, and at twenty-two went to study with Dubuque, 
in Moscow. 

Although Kashkin had no influence on Tchaikovsky's 
development, their relations were very friendly. When 
the latter came to Moscow, Kashkin was already married 
and a professor at the Conservatoire. He and his young 
wife took a great liking to the lonely composer, and the 
intimacy ripened very quickly. All the teachers at the 
Conservatoire, including Nicholas Rubinstein, valued 
Kashkin's advice. All his friends regarded him as a 
critic par excellence. Many years later he gave up teach- 
ing at the Conservatoire, and became a professional critic. 
But even in this difficult calling, which so often leads to 
misunderstanding and bitter enmities, he managed to keep 
all his old friends, and even to make new ones. 

If I add to the names of N. Rubinstein, Albrecht, 
Jurgenson, and Kashkin, two fellow-students already 
mentioned Laroche and Hubert the list of Tchai- 


kovsky's intimate friends is complete. This little circle 
was destined to give unfailing support to the growing 
reputation of the composer, and to remain in the closest 
personal relations with him to the end of his life. Amid 
these friends he found encouragement and sympathy at 
the time when he stood most in need of them. 


Tchaikovsky left St. Petersburg early in January, 1866. 

At this time his letters show his depth of tenderness 
for his own people, his first feelings of loneliness in the 
strange city, his indifference to his surroundings, and 
finally his gradual attachment to Moscow, which ended in 
being " the dearest town in the world." 

To Anatol and Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" 3-3 P' m "> January 6th (i8//fc). 

" MY DEAR BROTHERS, My journey, although sad, is 
safely over. I thought about you the whole way, and it 
grieved me to think that lately I had overshadowed you 
with my own depression, although I fought hard against 
it. Do not, however, doubt my affection, even if I do not 
always show it outwardly. I am staying at the Hotel 
Kokorev. I have already seen Rubinstein and been intro- 
duced to two directors of the Musical Society. Rubinstein 
was so pressing in his invitation to me to live with him 
that I could not refuse, and shall go there to-morrow. . . . 
I hug you both. Do not cease to love me. Give my 
remembrances to everyone. Write ! I will write again 
soon. I have just written to Dad. You must also do so." 

To the same. 

" Moscow, Jan uary loth (22nd). 

"DEAR BROTHERS,- I am now living with Nicholas 
Rubinstein. He is a very kind and sympathetic man. 


He has none of his brother's unapproachable manner, but 
in other respects he is not to be compared with Anton as 
an artist. I have a little room next to his bedroom, and, 
truth to tell, I am afraid the scratching of my pen must 
disturb him after he goes to bed, for our rooms are only 
divided by a thin partition. I am very busy (upon the 
orchestration of the C minor overture composed during 
the summer). I sit at home nearly all day, and Rubinstein, 
who leads rather an excitable life, cannot sufficiently marvel 
at my industry. I have been to both theatres. The 
opera was very bad, so for once I did not get as much 
artistic enjoyment from it as from the play. ... I have 
hardly made any new acquaintances except Kashkin, a 
friend of Laroche's and a first-rate musician, whom I have 
got to know very well indeed. 

" Sometimes I feel rather melancholy, but as a rule I am 
possessed by an insatiable craving for work, which is my 
greatest consolation. ... I have promised Rubinstein 
my overture shall be performed here before I send it 
to Petersburg. Yesterday at bedtime I thought a great 
deal about you both. I pictured to myself all the horrors 
of the first night after the holidays, and fancied how Modi 
would hide his nose under the bed-clothes and cry bitterly. 
How I wish I could have comforted him ! It is not a 
meaningless phrase, Modi, when I tell you to grind and 
grind and grind, and to make friends with your respectable 
companions, but not with that crazy fellow X. ... I am 
afraid you will be left behind in your class and be one 
of those who get into the master's black books. I have no 
fears for Toly, so I send him no advice. Toly, my dear, 
conquer your indolence as a correspondent and write to 
me. Hearty kisses ! " 

The overture in C minor, referred to in this letter, was 
submitted to Nicholas Rubinstein a few days later. His 
opinion, however, was unfavourable, and he declared the 
work unsuitable for performance by the Musical Society. 
Tchaikovsky then sent the work to Petersburg, in order that 
Laroche might ask Anton Rubinstein to perform it there. 
" I have left your overture with Rubinstein," Laroche wrote 


in reply, " and repeated your request verbatim. He replied 
by a low, ironical bow. But this is just his way." The 
overture was not approved by Anton Rubinstein, nor did it 
meet with a happier fate when Laroche tried to persuade 
Liadov to give it a place at one of the opera concerts. 
Long afterwards Tchaikovsky himself shared this adverse 
opinion of the work, and wrote upon the cover of the 
manuscript, " Awful rubbish/' 

To his sister > Alexandra Davidov. 

"January \$th (27^). 

"... I have nothing particular to tell you about my life 
and work. I am to teach the theory of music, and yester- 
day I held the preliminary examination. Many pretty 
girls presented themselves. ... I like Moscow very well, 
but I doubt if I shall ever get accustomed to it ; I have 
been too long rooted in Petersburg." 

To A. and M. Tchaikovsky. 

"January i$th (27^). 

" MY DEAR BROTHERS, Do not waste your money on 
stamps. It would be better to write only once a week, a 
long letter in the form of a diary. . . . 

" I get on very well with everyone, especially with 
Rubinstein, Kashkin, Albrecht, and Osberg. 1 I have also 
made friends with a family of the name Tchaikovsky. 2 I 
have eaten a great deal at their house, but I did not take 
part in the dancing, although I was attired in Rubinstein's 
dress-coat The latter looks after me like a nurse, and 
insists upon doing so. To-day he forced me to accept half 
a dozen new shirts (you need not mention this to the 
Davidovs or anyone else), and to-morrow he will carry me 
off to his tailor to order me a frock-coat. He is a wonder- 
fully kind man, but I cannot understand how he has won 

1 Professor of singing at the Conservatoire. 

2 All traces of this family appear to be lost, but it is evident the}' were not 
relatives of the composer. 


his great reputation as a musician. He is rather ordinary 
in this respect, not to be compared to his brother. 1 

" In mentioning my friends here, I must not omit 
Rubinstein's servant Alexander. He is a worthy old man, 
and possesses a splendid white cat which is now sitting on 
my lap, while I stroke it gently. My pleasantest pastime 
is to think of the summer. Lately I have felt drawn to 
Sasha, Leo, and their children, and have now decided to 
spend the summer with you at their house." 

To A. and M. Tchaikovsky. 

" Sunday ) January 30^ (February nth). 

". . . I laugh heartily over Dickens's Pickwick Papers, 
with no one to share my mirth ; but sometimes this thought 
incites me to even wilder hilarity. I recommend you to 
read this book ; when one wants to read fiction it is best to 
begin with such an author as Dickens. He has much in 
common with Gogol ; the same inimitable and innate 
humour and the same masterly power of depicting an 
entire character in a few strokes. But he has not Gogol's 
depth. . . . 

" The idea of an opera begins to occupy my attention. 
All the libretti Rubinstein has given me are utterly 
bad. I have found a subject, and intend to write words 
myself. It will simply be the adaptation of a tragedy. 
The poet Plestcheiev is living here, and has promised to 
help me." 

To his sister, Alexandra Davidov. 

"February ^th (igth). 

" I am gradually becoming accustomed to Moscow, 
although sometimes I feel very lonely. My classes are 
very successful, to my great astonishment ; my nervous- 
ness is vanishing completely, and I am gradually assuming 
the airs of a professor. My home-sickness is also wearing 
off, but still Moscow is a strange place, and it will be long 
before I can contemplate without horror the thought of 
remaining here for years perhaps for ever. . . ." 

1 Later on Tchaikovsky completely altered his opinion. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

(The middle of February^ 

"MY DEAR FRIEND MODI, I have been very busy 
lately, and therefore have not written for a long while. 
Rubinstein has entrusted me with some important work 
which has to be finished by the third week in Lent. . . . 

" Life glides on quietly and monotonously, so that I 
have hardly anything to tell you. I often visit the Tar- 
novskys, whose niece is the loveliest girl I ever saw in my 
life. I am very much taken with her, which causes Rubin- 
stein to be a perfect nuisance. The moment we arrive at 
the house the others begin to tease us and leave us 
together. At home she is called * Mufka,' and just now I 
am wondering whether I dare use this name for her too. 
I only need to 'know her a little better. Rubinstein has 
also been in love with her, but his sentiments have now 
grown cooler. 

" My nerves are in good condition ; I am very calm and 
even cheerful. I often console myself with thoughts of 
Easter, spring, and the summer holidays." 

The work to which Tchaikovsky refers at the beginning 
of this letter was the instrumentation of his overture in 
F major, which had been originally scored for the small 
orchestra of the Petersburg Conservatoire. In later years 
the composer must have destroyed the fuller arrangement 
of the work, although at this time he seems to have been 
satisfied with the result. 

To A. and M. Tchaikovsky. 

" March 6th (i%th). 

"... My overture was performed on Friday, and had a 
good success. I was unanimously recalled, and to be 
grandiloquent received with applause that made the wel- 
kin ring. More flattering still was the ovation I met with 
at the supper which Rubinstein gave after the concert . . . 
After supper he proposed my health amid renewed ap- 
plause. I go into these details because it is my first public 
success, and consequently very gratifying." 


At the end of March Tchaikovsky, eager as a schoolboy 
at the beginning of his holidays, left Moscow for Peters- 
burg, where he stayed until April 4th (i6th). 

To A. and M. Tchaikovsky. 

" Moscow, April ^th (19^). 

" Brothers ! Forgive me for not having written before. 
The journey was safely accomplished. The news of the 
attempt upon the Emperor's life reached us at the station 
where we stopped for tea, but only in a very vague form. 1 
We pictured to ourselves that he was actually dead, and 
one lady wept bitterly, while another began to extol all the 
virtues of the new sovereign. Only at Moscow I learnt 
the true account. The rejoicings here were beyond belief ; 
yesterday at the Opera, where I went to hear A Life for 
the Tsar, when the Poles appeared on the stage the entire 
public began to shout, ' Down with the Poles ! ' In the last 
scene of the fourth act, in which the Poles put Sousanin to 
death, the singer who was taking this part resisted with 
such realistic violence that he knocked down several of the 
' Polish ' chorus-singers. When the rest of the ' Poles ' saw 
that this outrage to art and to the truth delighted the 
public, they promptly fell down of their own accord, and 
the triumphant Sousanin walked away, shaking his fists at 
them, amid the vociferous applause of the Muscovites. At 
the end of the opera the Emperor's portrait was brought 
on the stage, and an indescribable tumult followed." 

To Alexandra Davidov. 

" April %th (2oth}. 

" I am going to act as advocate for two mortals who are 
just crazy about Kamenka. You write that Toly and 
Modi might be left in Petersburg, but I am determined not 
to tell them your point of view. They would utterly lose 
heart especially Toly. One of my chief reasons for 
caring to spend the summer at Kamenka is to be with 
them, and your house is the only place where we can 
be together for a time. If you only knew how these little 

1 Karakovich's attempt upon Alexander II. , April 4th (i6th), 1866. 


fellows cling to me (and I return their love a hundredfold), 
you would not find it in your heart to separate us. Arrange, 
my dear, for this visit to come off. Very likely I shall be 
able to take part of the expense off your hands." 

Before the summer holidays came, Tchaikovsky's health 
was in an unsatisfactory condition. He complains in his 
letters of insomnia, nervousness, and the throbbing sensa- 
tions in his head, to which he often refers as " my 
apoplectic symptoms." At the end of April his depres- 
sion became very apparent, and he wrote to his brother 
Anatol : 

" My nerves are altogether shaken. The causes are : 
(i) the symphony, which does not sound satisfactory; (2) 
Rubinstein and Tarnovsky have discovered that I am 
easily startled, and amuse themselves by giving me all 
manner of shocks all day long ; (3) I cannot shake off the 
conviction that I shall not live long, and shall leave my 
symphony unfinished. I long for the summer and for 
Kamenka as for the Promised Land, and hope to find rest 
and peace, and to forget all my troubles there. Yesterday 
I determined to touch no more wine, spirits, or strong tea. 

" I hate mankind in the mass, and I should be delighted 
to retire into some wilderness with very few inhabitants. 
I have already secured my ticket in the diligence for 
May 10th (22nd)." 

The visit to Kamenka, to which he had looked forward 
through the winter and spring, did not actually come to 
pass. In consequence of the state of the high-roads, the 
diligence was unable to run beyond Dovsk ; the remainder 
of the journey had to be undertaken, at the traveller's own 
risk and expense, in a private post-chaise. Tchaikovsky's 
funds did not permit of this extra strain, and the visit to 
his sister was abandoned. With the assistance of his 
father, Anatol was sent to Kamenka, while Peter Ilich, 
with Modeste, went for a time to his sister's mother-in-law 
at Miatlev, near Petersburg. 


In spite of the beauty of scenery and his pleasure in 
being with his excellent friends, Elizabeth and Vera 
Davidov, in spite of being near his father and the 
poetical impression derived from a trip to Lake Ladoga, 
Tchaikovsky did not altogether enjoy his holiday at 
Miatlev. The cause of this was his G minor symphony, 
afterwards known as Winter Day Dreams. Not one of 
his compositions gave him so much trouble as this 

He began this work in Moscow during the spring, and 
it was the cause of his nervous disorders and numerous 
sleepless nights. These difficulties were partly caused by 
his want of experience in composition, and partly by his 
habit of working by night as well as by day. At the end 
of June he had a terrible nervous breakdown, and the 
doctor who was called in to see him declared he had 
narrowly escaped madness, and that his condition was 
very serious. The most alarming symptoms of the illness 
were his hallucinations and a constant feeling of dread. 
That he suffered intensely is evident from the fact that he 
never again attempted to work through the night. 

In consequence of his illness, Tchaikovsky was unable 
to finish the symphony during the summer. Nevertheless, 
before his return to Moscow he resolved to submit it to 
his former masters, Anton Rubinstein and Zaremba, hoping 
they might offer to let it be heard at the Musical Society. 

Once more he was doomed to disappointment. His 
symphony was severely criticised, rejected, and pronounced 
unworthy of performance. It was the first completely 
independent work which he had composed after leaving 
the Petersburg Conservatoire. The only other work upon 
which he was engaged at this time was the orchestration 
of his F major and C minor overtures, which still remain 




At the end of August Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow 
without any trace of the hostile feeling with which he had 
gone there in the previous January. In this change of 
attitude his artistic sensibility unquestionably played a 
part. After the severe judgment of the authorities in 
Petersburg upon his symphony, he could not fail to con- 
trast this reception unfavourably with the acknowledgments 
of the Moscow musical world. He had learnt, too, the 
value of his colleagues, N. Rubinstein, Albrecht and Kash- 
kin, and looked forward to meeting them again. Finally, 
he had the pleasant prospect of an increased salary, com- 
mencing from September. He must have rejoiced to feel 
his extreme poverty had touched its limits, and an income 
of over 120 a year seemed almost wealth to him. "I have 
money enough and to spare," he wrote to his brothers in 

The ties which bound him to Petersburg were slackening. 
His attachment to his father remained unchanged, but he 
was growing accustomed to his separation ; moreover, the 
twins stood less in need of his tender solicitude, since they 
were once more living at home with their father. 

And yet he still hankered after the recognition of St. 
Petersburg ; Moscow was still " a strange city "; a provin- 
cial town, the appreciation of which was hardly worth the 

In 1866 the Conservatoire outgrew its quarters in Rubin- 
stein's house, and it became necessary to locate it in a 
larger building. Rubinstein now moved into quarters 
nearer the new Conservatoire, and Tchaikovsky continued 
to live with him. 


The opening of the buildings took place on September 
1st (i3th), and was attended by most of the leaders of 
Moscow society. The consecration service was followed 
by a banquet at which many toasts were given, and 
even Tchaikovsky himself drank to the health of Rubin- 
stein, after making a cordial and eloquent speech in his 
honour. Kashkin, the only witness of the event now 
living, writes: 

* The banquet was followed by music, and Tchaikovsky, 
who was determined that the first music to be heard in the 
hall of the Conservatoire should be Glinka's, opened the 
impromptu concert by playing the overture to Russia* and 
LtomdmtUa from memory." 

The influx of new colleagues which followed the enlarge- 
ment of the Conservatoire made very little difference to 
Tchaikovsky's intimate circle. He admired Laub's incom- 
parable playing without entering into closer relations with 
him. He had more in common with Kossmann, an excellent 
musician and a man of culture. His acquaintance with the 
violinist Wieniawsky was of short duration, since at the end 
of six months the latter resigned his post as teacher, and 
they never met again. He often spent the evening with 
Dubuque, a most hospitable man, and a famous pianist, who 
was considered the finest interpreter of Field's Nocturnes 
and other works which were accounted modern in those 
days. To these acquaintances we may add Anton Door, 
the well-known pianist, now residing in Vienna. 

Among such of Tchaikovsky's friends as did not belong 
to die musical profession, the generous art patron Prince 
Vladimir Odoevsky takes the first place. Peter Ilich was 
grateful for the interest which this enlightened man took 
in him and his work. In 1878 he says in one of his letters : 

* He was the personification of kindness, and combined 
the most all-embracing knowledge, including the art of 
music. . . . Four days before his death he came to the 



concert to hear my orchestral fantasia, Fatum. How 
jovial he was when during the interval he came to give me 
his opinion ! The cymbals which he unearthed and pre- 
sented to me are still kept at the Conservatoire. He did 
not like the instruments himself, but thought I had a talent 
for introducing them at the right moment. So the charm- 
ing old fellow searched all Moscow until he discovered a 
pair of good ' piatti/ and sent them to me with a precious 

In the literary and dramatic world Tchaikovsky had 
two good friends the dramatist Ostrovsky and Sadovsky. 
He won the sympathy of these distinguished men entirely 
by his own personality, since neither of them cared greatly 
for music. 

During the season 1866-7 tne composer made another 
friendship which was of great importance to his future 
career. Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, Intendant of the 
Imperial Opera, Moscow, enjoyed a considerable reputa- 
tion first as an elderly Adonis, secondly as the hero of 
many romantic episodes in the past, and thirdly as the 
husband of his wife, a lady once renowned for her singing 
and for her somewhat sensational past. By her first hus- 
band Madame Begichev had two sons Constantine and 
Vladimir Shilovsky. These young men were strongly 
attracted to art and literature, and played a considerable 
part in Tchaikovsky's subsequent career. 

Soon after his arrival in Moscow Tchaikovsky began to 
compose an overture on the Danish National Hymn, 
which N. Rubinstein had requested him to have ready for 
the approaching marriage of the Tsarevitch with the 
Princess Dagmar, to be played in the presence of the 
royal pair during their visit to Moscow. 

As with all his commissioned works, Tchaikovsky had 
completed this overture before the appointed day, although 
he had to compose under the most unfavourable condi- 
tions. Rubinstein's house was beset all day long by 


professors from the Conservatoire and other visitors, who 
did not hesitate to intrude into Tchaikovsky's room, so 
that he found no peace at home, and had to take refuge 
in a neighbouring inn, "The Great Britain," which was 
very little frequented during the daytime. When finished, 
he dedicated the overture to the Tsarevitch, and received 
in return a pair of jewelled sleeve-links, which he im- 
mediately sold to Dubuque. Tchaikovsky, who generally 
judged his early works very severely, kept a favourable 
recollection of this overture, and wrote to Jurgenson, in 

" My Danish Overture may become a popular concert 
work, for, as far as I can remember, it is effective and, 
from a musical standpoint, far superior to ' 1812.'" 

After making some alterations in his symphony under- 
taken at the desire of Anton Rubinstein and Zaremba 
Tchaikovsky, setting aside N. Rubinstein, desired to 
hear the judgments of his old teachers, so greatly was he 
still under the influence of Petersburg opinion. He only 
permitted the least important movement to be heard at 
a Moscow Symphony Concert in December the scherzo, 
which had very little success. In Petersburg the work 
was once more refused, but afterwards the two middle 
movements (adagio and scherzo) were performed in 
February, 1867. The reception was not encouraging, only 
one anonymous critic speaking warmly in praise of the 

In Tchaikovsky's nature, side by side with his gentle 
and benevolent attitude towards his fellow-men, there 
existed an extraordinary memory for any injury ; not 
in the ordinary sense of a desire for revenge, but in the 
more literal meaning of unforgetfulness. He hardly ever 
forgot a slight to his artistic pride. If it was offered by 
one whom he had hitherto loved, he grew suddenly cold to 
him and for ever. Not only for months or years, but for 


decades, he would bear such a wound unhealed in his 
heart, and it took a great deal to make him forget an 
inconsiderate word, or an unfriendly action. .It was no 
doubt the result of having been spoilt as a child. From 
his earliest infancy he had been kept from all unpleasant- 
ness, or even indifference, so that what would have ap- 
peared a pin-prick to many seemed to him a mortal blow. 

Not only the episode of the symphony which after- 
wards won a fair measure of success in St. Petersburg 
but many other events contributed to estrange Tchai- 
kovsky from the city of his first affections. Gradually the 
circle of his friends there decreased, and the most inti- 
mate of them all, Laroche, was appointed Professor at the 
Moscow Conservatoire in December, 1867. Besides which 
that little school of gifted "young Russians," under the 
leadership of Balakirev, and the protection of Dar- 
gomijsky, which included Moussorgsky, Cui, Borodin 
and Rimsky-Korsakov,-were gaining more and more ac- 
knowledgment and weight in Petersburg. This circle, 
supported by the pens of Cui and Stassov, who held 
extremely modern views and were opposed to the Con- 
servatoire and Anton Rubinstein, made a very unsympa- 
thetic impression upon Tchaikovsky. 

The hostility with which he regarded this group of 
composers had its origin in his distrustful attitude towards 
society generally. He met all strangers with dislike, but 
at the first friendly advance, or kind word, he forgave them, 
and even thought them sympathetic. 

So it was with his intercourse with the members of the 
New School in St. Petersburg. Until 1868 none of them 
were known to him personally, but all the same he was 
hostile to them. This was sufficient to awaken in him the 
notion that they were all disposed to be his enemies, and 
when in 1867 Anton Rubinstein resigned the conductorship 
of the Symphony Concerts, and it passed into the hands 
of this school, he decided that Petersburg was now a hostile 


camp, whereas in reality they were simply neutral, or in- 
different, to him. 

Meanwhile, by closer acquaintance with Nicholas Rubin- 
stein, Tchaikovsky had begun to recognise his worth as an 
executant, a conductor, and an indefatigable worker ; 
while the presence of such musicians as Laub and Koss- 
mann, and such intimate friends as Kashkin, Albrecht and 
Laroche, reconciled him to Moscow as a musical centre 
where it was worth while to be appreciated. 

The earliest of Tchaikovsky's letters in 1867 is dated 
May 2nd (i4th) ; therefore it is difficult to fix the precise 
date at which he began to compose his opera, The 
Voyevode. In any case he received the first part of the 
libretto from Ostrovsky in March or April. I remember 
that in the summer the first act was not even finished. At 
the very outset he was delayed in his work because he 
lost the manuscript, and Ostrovsky had to rewrite it from 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" May 2nd (14^), 1867. 

" All last week I was out of humour ; first, because 
of the bad weather ; secondly, from shortness of money ; 
and thirdly, from despair of ever again finding the libretto. 
. . . Recently I made the acquaintance of Professor 
Bougaiev at his house. He is an extraordinarily learned 
man. He talked until late into the night about astronomy 
and its latest discoveries. Good God ! How ignorant we 
are when we leave school ! I shudder when I chance to 
come across a really well-read and enlightened man ! . . . " 

In the summer of 1867 Tchaikovsky decided to visit 
Finland with one of the twins, his funds not being sufficient 
to allow of his taking both of them. With his usual 
nawete as regards money matters, he set off with Anatol, 
taking about 10 in his pocket, which he believed would 
suffice for the trip. At the end of a few days in Viborg, 
finding themselves nearly penniless, they took the first 


boat back to Petersburg. There a great disappointment 
awaited them. Their father, from whom they hoped to 
obtain some assistance, had already left for a summer 
holiday in the Ural Mountains. The brothers then spent 
their last remaining shillings in reaching Hapsal by 
steamer, where they were certain of rinding their faithful 
friends the Davidovs. They travelled as " between deck " 
passengers and suffered terribly from the cold. But 
notwithstanding these misadventures, out of which they 
derived more amusement than discomfort, Peter Ilich 
enjoyed the summer holidays. His spirits were excellent, 
and he worked hard at The Voyevode, while his leisure 
was spent in the society of his dear friends. The evenings 
were devoted to reading, and they were particularly 
interested in the dramatic works of Alfred de Musset. 
This kind of life entirely satisfied Tchaikovsky's simple 
and steadfast nature, and his happy frame of mind is 
reflected in the Chant sans paroles, which he composed 
at this time and dedicated with two additional pieces for 
piano to Vera Vassilievna Davidov, under the title of 
Souvenir de Hapsal. 

On August 1 5th (27th), Tchaikovsky left Hapsal for 
Moscow, spending a week in Petersburg on his way. 



" Perhaps you may have observed " writes Tchaikovsky 
to his sister " that I long intensely for a quiet, peaceful life, 
such as one lives in the country. Vera Davidov may have 
told you how we often spoke in fun of our future farm, 
where we intended to end our days. As regards myself it 
is no joke. I am really attracted to this idea because, 
although I am far from being old, I am already very tired 


of life. Do not laugh ; if you always lived with me you 
would see it for yourself. The people around me often 
wonder at my taciturnity and my apparent ill-temper, while 
actually I do not lead an unhappy existence. What more 
can a man want whose prospects are good, who is liked, 
and whose artistic work meets with appreciation? And 
yet, in spite of these favourable circumstances, I shrink 
from every social engagement, do not care to make acquaint- 
ances, love solitude and silence. All this is explained by 
my weariness of life. In those moments when I am not 
merely too lazy to talk, but too indolent even to think, 
I dream of a calm, heavenly, serene existence, and only 
realise this life in your immediate neighbourhood. Be sure 
of this : you will have to devote some of your maternal 
devotion to your tired old brother. Perhaps you may 
think such a frame of mind naturally leads a man to the 
consideration of matrimony. No, my dear future com- 
panion ! My weariness has made me too indolent to form 
new ties, too indolent to found a family, too indolent to take 
upon myself the responsibility of wife and children. In 
short, marriage is to me inconceivable. How I shall come 
to be united with your family I know not as yet ; whether 
I shall become the owner of a plot of ground in your 
neighbourhood, or simply your boarder, only the future 
can decide. One thing is clear : my future happiness is 
impossible apart from you." 

Tchaikovsky never gives the true reason for his yearning 
after solitude and a life of " heavenly quiet and serenity," 
but it certainly did not proceed from " misanthropy," " in- 
dolence," or weariness of life. 

He was no misanthropist, for, as everyone who knew 
him must agree, it would be difficult to find any man who 
gave out more sympathy than he did. Laroche says: 

"The number of people who made a good impression 
on him, who pleased him, and of whom he spoke in their 
absence as ' good ' and ' sympathetic/ sometimes astounded 
me. The power of seeing the best side of people and of 
things was a gift inherited from his father, and it was pre- 
cisely this love of his fellow-creatures which made him so 


beloved in return. He was no misanthropist, rather a 
philanthropist in the true sense of the word. Neither is 
there greater justice in his self-accusation of 'indolence.' 
Those who have followed him through his school-life, his 
official career, and his student days at the Conservatoire, 
will be of my opinion. But a glance at the number of his 
works, which reaches seventy-six, including ten operas and 
three ballets ; at his letters (I possess, in all, four thousand) ; 
at his literary work (sixty-one articles) ; at his translations 
and arrangements, and his ten years' teaching, will suffice 
to convince the most sceptical that his nature knew no 
moods of dolce far niente" 

As regards his "weariness of life," he himself disposes 
of it in the same letter, when he speaks of yearning for 
a calm and happy existence. Those who are really world- 
weary have no longing for any kind of existence. Neither 
misanthropy, indolence, nor weariness were his permanent 
moods. His indefinite craving for an easier life was caused 
by his creative impulse, which, waxing ever stronger and 
stronger, awoke the desire for more leisure to devote to it. 
This longing for freedom reached a climax in 1877, and 
brought about a complete change in his life. 

For the time being it was useless to think of solitude 
or freedom. All he could hope for was the comparative 
liberty of his summer vacation. Town life was a necessity 
to him from the material and moral point of view, and 
although he complained of its being oppressive, I believe 
that had he been compelled by fate to reside in the country 
as he did some years later he would, at this earlier 
period of his career, have had much more cause for 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"August $ist, 1867 (September i2th). 

"... At present I have nothing to do, and loaf about 
the town all day. . . . Ostrovsky still keeps me on the 
trot. I read in the Petersburg papers that he had com- 


pleted my libretto, but it is not so. I had some difficulty 
in dragging the first half of the lost act out of him. I am 
wandering about with the intention of buying a large 
writing-table to make my room more comfortable, so that 
I can work at my opera at home. I am determined to 
finish it during the winter. Last night we celebrated 
Dubuque's birthday, and I came back rather the worse for 

" I have spent two evenings running at the ' English 
Club.' What a delightful club ! It would be jolly to be- 
long to it, but it costs too much. . . ." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

(About tke end of October.) 

" I am getting along all right. On Saturday our first 
concert takes place, to which I look forward, for, generally 
speaking, the people here prefer carnal to spiritual enter- 
tainments, and eat and drink an incredible amount. The 
concert will supply me with a little musical food, of which 
I am badly in need, for I live like a bear in his cave, upon 
my own substance, that is to say, upon my compositions, 
which are always running in my head. Try as I may, it is 
impossible to lead a quiet life in Moscow, where one must 
over-eat and drink. This is the fifth day in succession 
that I have come home late with an overloaded stomach. 
But you must not imagine I am idle : from breakfast till 
the midday meal I work without a break." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" November 2$th (December 7^). 

" Our mutual friend Klimenko is in Moscow, and visits 
us almost daily. 

"The Opera is progressing fairly well. The whole 
of the third act is finished, and the dances from it which 
I orchestrated at Hapsal will be given at the next 

Ivan Alexandrovich Klimenko, whose name will often 


occur in the course of this book, had previously made 
Laroche's acquaintance at one of Serov's " Tuesday 
evenings." An architect by profession, Kashkin describes 
him as a very gifted amateur. He was devotedly attached 
to Tchaikovsky, and one of the first to prophesy his 
significance for Russian music. 

At the second symphony concert, which took place 
early in December, " The Dances of the Serving Maids," 
from The Voyevode, were given. They had an undeniable 
success, and were twice repeated in Moscow during the 

On December I2th (24th) Tchaikovsky wrote to his 
brother Anatol as follows : 

"You ask if I am coming to Petersburg. Wisdom 
compels me to say no. In the first place I have not 
money for the journey, and secondly, Berlioz is coming 
here at Christmas, and will give two concerts one popular, 
and another in the place of our fourth symphony evening. 
I shall put off my visit until the Carnival or Lent. . . ." 

Berlioz went to Moscow about the end of December, 
1867, direct from St. Petersburg, where he had been 
invited by the directors of the Musical Society chiefly 
at the instigation of Dargomijsky and Balakirev to 
conduct a series of six concerts. 

This was not his first visit to Russia. As early as 1847 
he had been welcomed in Petersburg, Moscow and Riga, 
by the instrumentality of Glinka, who regarded him as 
" the greatest of contemporary musicians." He then met 
with an enthusiastic reception from the leaders of the 
Russian musical world, Prince Odoevsky and Count 
Vielgorsky, and not only made a large sum, but was 
equally feted by the public. It is interesting to note that 
not only Berlioz himself, but his Russian admirers seem 
to have deluded themselves into the belief that he was 
" understood " and " appreciated " in Russia. Prince 


Odoevsky, who published an article extolling Berlioz's 
genius the very day before his first concert in Peters- 
burg, exclaims in one of his letters to Glinka : 

" Where are you, friend ? Why are you not with us ? 
Why are you not sharing our joy and pleasure? Berlioz 
has been ' understood ' in St. Petersburg ! ! Here, in spite 
of the scourge of Italian cavatina, which has well-nigh 
ruined Slavonic taste, we showed that we could still appre- 
ciate the most complicated contrapuntal music in the world. 
There must be a secret sympathy between his music and 
our intimate Russian sentiment. How else can this public 
enthusiasm be explained ? " 

I am of opinion that it is more easily explicable by the 
fact that Berlioz was a gifted conductor, and that the 
public had been prepossessed in his favour by the lauda- 
tory articles of Prince Odoevsky himself. Judging from 
the neglect of this famous composer in the present day 
{Faust is the only one of his works which is still popular), 
this is surely the right point of view. 

Twenty years later, in 1867, the enthusiastic welcome 
he received here was chiefly due to his attraction as a 
conductor, and to the enthusiasm of that small group of 
Russian musicians to whom he owed his invitation to our 

Tchaikovsky, whose views were entirely opposed to 
those of this circle, held u his own opinions " in this, as in 
other matters. Although he fully appreciated the impor- 
tant place which Berlioz filled in modern music, and 
recognised him as a great reformer of the orchestra, he 
felt no enthusiasm for his music. On the other hand, he 
had the warmest admiration for the man, in whom he saw 
" the personification of disinterested industry, of ardent 
love for art, of a noble and energetic combatant against 
ignorance, stupidity, vulgarity, and routine. . . ." He also 
regarded him as " an old and broken man, persecuted 
alike by fate and his fellow-creatures," whom he cordially 


desired to console and cheer if only for the moment 
by the expression of an ungrudging sympathy. 

On February 3rd (iSth) Tchaikovsky's G minor sym- 
phony was given at the Musical Society, when its success 
surpassed all expectations. " The adagio pleased best," 
Tchaikovsky wrote to his brothers. The composer was 
vociferously recalled, and, according to Countess Kapnist, 
appeared upon the platform in rather untidy clothes, hat 
in hand, and bowed awkwardly. 

On February iQth (March 2nd) a charity concert was 
given in the Opera House in aid of the Famine Fund. 
This was an event in Tchaikovsky's life, for he made his 
first public appearance as a conductor, the " Dances " from 
The Voyevode^ being played under his baton. On this occa- 
sion, too, he first became acquainted with the work of 
Rimsky-Korsakov, whose "Serbian Fantasia" was included 
in the programme. 

Tchaikovsky's opinion of himself as a conductor we 
have learnt already from Laroche. Kashkin gives the 
following account of this concert : 

"When I went behind the scenes to see how the 
debutant was feeling, he told me that to his great sur- 
prise he was not in the least nervous. Before it came 
to his turn I returned to my place. When Tchaikovsky 
actually appeared on the platform, I noticed that he was 
quite distracted ; he came on timidly, as though he would 
have been glad to hide, or run away, and, on mounting to 
the conductor's desk, looked like a man who finds himself 
in some desperate situation. Apparently his composition 
was blotted out from his mind ; he did not see the score 
before him, and gave all the leads at the wrong moment, 
or to the wrong instruments. Fortunately the band knew 
the music so well that they paid no attention whatever to 
Tchaikovsky's beat, but laughing in their sleeves, got 
through the dances very creditably in spite of him. After- 
wards Peter Ilich told me that in his terror he had a 
feeling that his head would fall off his shoulders unless he 
held it tightly in position." 


That he had no faith in his powers of conducting is 
evident from the fact that ten years elapsed before he 
ventured to take up the baton again. 

In a notice of the concert, which appeared in The 
Entr'acte, Tchaikovsky was spoken of as a " mature " 
musician, whose work was remarkable for " loftiness of aim 
and masterly thematic treatment " ; while Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov's "Serbian Fantasia" was dismissed as "colourless 
and inanimate." 

Had such a judgment been pronounced a few months 
earlier, at a time when Tchaikovsky knew nothing of the 
composer, and regarded the entire Petersburg School as 
his enemies, who knows whether he would not have felt 
a certain satisfaction a kind of " Schadenfreude " at its 
appearance? Now, however, circumstances were altered. 
Not only had he become well acquainted with the "Serbian 
Fantasia " at rehearsal, and learnt to regard both the work 
and its composer with respect, but during the last two or 
three months he had been more closely associated with 
the leader of the New School, Mily Balakirev, and had 
become convinced that, far from being his enemies, the 
Petersburg set were all interested in his career. 

The result of this pleasing discovery was a burning 
desire to show his sympathy for a gifted colleague, and 
he wrote an article in direct contradiction to the criticism 
of the Entfacte. This was the beginning of his literary 
activity. The article aroused considerable attention in 
Moscow, and was warmly approved. Nor did it escape 
observation in St. Petersburg. Consequently, when Tchai- 
kovsky visited his father at Easter, he was received in a 
very friendly spirit by "The Invincible Band." 1 

The rallying-point of " The Band " was Dargomijsky's 
house. The composer, although confined to his bed by a 
mortal illness, was working with fire and inspiration at his 

1 Under this sobriquet were grouped the followers of the New Russian 
School : Dargomijsky, Cui, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others. 


opera, The Stone Guest. His young friends regarded this 
work as the foundation-stone of the great temple of " The 
Music of the Future," and frequently assembled at the 
" Master's " to note the progress of the new creation and 
show him their own works. Even Tchaikovsky, who had 
already met Dargomijsky at Begichev's in Moscow, found 
himself more than once among the guests, and made many 
new acquaintances on these occasions. 

At Balakirev's, too, he met many musicians who held 
the views of the New Russian School. Although Tchai- 
kovsky entered into friendly relations with the members of 
" The Invincibles," he could not accept their tenets, and 
with great tact and skill remained entirely independent 
of them. While he made friends individually with Bala- 
kirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui and Vladimir Stassov, he 
still regarded their union with some hostility. 

He laughed at their ultra-progressive tendencies and 
regarded with contempt the naive and crude efforts of 
some members of " The Band " (especially Moussorgsky). 
But while making fun of these " unheard-of works of 
genius," which "throw all others into the shade," and 
indignant at their daring attacks upon his idol Mozart, 
Tchaikovsky was also impressed by the force and vitality 
displayed in some of their compositions, as well as by their 
freshness of inspiration and honourable intentions, so that 
far from being repulsed, he learnt to feel a certain degree 
of sympathy and a very great respect for this school. 

This dual relationship reacted in two different ways. 
Tchaikovsky never hesitated to express quite openly his 
antipathy to the tendencies of these innovators, while 
he refused to recognise the dilettante extravagances of 
Moussorgsky as masterpieces, and always made it evident 
that it would be distasteful to him to win the praise of 
Stassov and Cui, and with it the title of " genius," by 
seeking originality at the expense of artistic beauty. At 
the same time he acted as the propagandist of " The 


Band " in Moscow, was their intermediary with the Moscow 
section of the Musical Society, and busied himself with the 
performance or publication of their works. When in 1869 
the Grand Duchess Helena Paulovna desired to carry out 
a change in the management of the symphony concerts, 
and Balakirev retired from the conductorship, Tchaikovsky 
appeared for the second time as the champion of " The 
Band," and protested against the proceedings of the Grand 
Duchess in an energetic article, in which he displayed also 
his sympathy with the leader of the New Russian School. 
During the period when he was engaged in musical 
criticism, he lost no opportunity of giving public expression 
to his respect and enthusiasm for the works of Balakirev 
and Rimsky-Korsakov. 

But the most obvious sign of his sympathy with " The 
Band " is the fact that he dedicated three of his best works 
to individual members Fatum and Romeo and Juliet to 
Balakirev and The Tempest to Vladimir Stassov. Here 
undoubtedly we may see the indirect influence which the 
New School exercised upon Tchaikovsky. He would not 
amalgamate with them ; nor would he adopt their prin- 
ciples. But to win their sympathy, without actually having 
recourse to a compromise ; to accept their advice (Romeo 
and Juliet was suggested by Balakirev and The Tempest 
by Stassov) ; to triumph over the tasks they set him and 
to show his solidarity with " The Band," only in so far as 
they both aimed at being earnest in matters of art all 
this seemed to him not only interesting, but worthy of his 

" The Invincible Band " repaid Tchaikovsky in his own 
coin. They criticised some of his works as pedantic, 
" behind the times," and routinier, but at the outset of 
his career they took the greatest interest in him, respected 
him as a worthy rival, strove to win him over to their 
views, and continued to consider him "among the elect," 
even after the failure of their efforts at conversion. 


The relations between Tchaikovsky and "The Band" 
may be compared to those existing between two friendly 
neighbouring states, each leading-its independent existence, 
meeting on common grounds, but keeping their individual 
interests strictly apart. 

During the summer of this year Tchaikovsky went 
abroad with his favourite pupil Vladimir Shilovsky, ac- 
companied by the lad's guardian, V. Begichev, and a 
friend named De Lazary. In spite of a lingering wish 
to spend his holidays with his own people in some quiet 
spot, the opportunity seemed too good to be lost. His 
travelling companions were congenial, and his duties of 
the lightest merely to give music lessons to young 

From Paris he wrote to his sister on July 2Oth (August 
1st), 1868: 

" Originally we intended to visit the most beautiful 
places in Europe, but Shilovsky's illness, and the need of 
consulting a certain great doctor with all possible speed, 
brought us here, and has kept us against our will. . . . The 
theatres are splendid, not externally, but as regards the 
staging of pieces and the skill with which effects are 
produced by the simplest means. They know how to 
mount and act a play here in such a way that, without any 
remarkable display of histrionic talent, it is more effective 
than it would be with us, since it would probably lack 
rehearsal and ensemble. 

"As regards music, too, in the operas I have heard I 
remarked no singer with an exceptional voice, and yet 
what a splendid performance ! How carefully everything is 
studied and thought out ! What earnest attention is given 
to every detail, no matter how insignificant, which goes to 
make up the general effect ! We have no conception of 
such performances. . . . The noise and bustle of Paris is 
far less suited to a composer than the quiet of such a lake 
as the Thuner See, not to mention the stinking, but be- 
loved, Tiasmin, 1 which is happy in flowing by the house 

1 The river at Kamenka. 


that holds some of my nearest and dearest. How have 
they passed this summer ? " 

Tchaikovsky returned to his duties at Moscow about the 
end of August. 


Externally, Tchaikovsky's life had remained unchanged 
during this period. His lessons at the Conservatoire 
slightly increased, and his salary consequently rose to 
over 1,400 roubles (140). Under these circumstances he 
began to think of finding separate quarters, since his life 
with Nicholas Rubinstein was unfavourable to his creative 
work. The latter, however, would not consent to this, and 
Tchaikovsky himself had doubts as to whether his income 
would suffice for a separate establishment. 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" September $rd (L$tK). 

" I have been working like a slave to-day. The day 
before yesterday I received an unexpected summons to 
attend at the theatre. To my great surprise I found two 
choral rehearsals of my opera ( The Voyevode) had already 
been given, and the first solo rehearsal was about to take 
place. I have undertaken the pianoforte accompaniment 
myself. I doubt the possibility of getting up such a 
difficult work in a month, and already I shiver with 
apprehension at all the hurry-skurry and confusion which 
lie before me. The rehearsals will take place almost 
daily. The singers are all pleased with the opera. . . ." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"September 2$th (October 'jth). 

"... When I saw that it was impossible to study my 
opera in so short a time, I informed the directors that so 


long as the Italian company remained in Moscow and 
absorbed the time of both chorus and orchestra, I would 
not send in the score of my work. I wrote to Gedeonov 
to this effect. In consequence, the performance is post- 
poned until the Italians leave Moscow. I have a little 
more leisure now. Besides, Menshikova already knows 
the greater part of her role by heart. I lunched with her 
to-day, and she sang me several numbers from the opera, 
by no means badly. Time, on the whole, goes quickly 
and pleasantly. 

" I have some good news to give you about my future 
work. A few days ago I was lunching with Ostrovsky, 
and he proposed, entirely of his own accord, to write a 
libretto for me. The subject has been in his mind for the 
last twenty years, but he has never spoken of it to anyone 
before ; now his choice has fallen upon me. 

" The scene is laid in Babylon and Greece, in the time 
of Alexander of Macedon, who is introduced as one of 
the characters. We have representatives of two great 
races of antiquity : the Hebrews and the Greeks. The 
hero is a young Hebrew, in love with one of his own race, 
who, actuated by ambitious motives, betrays him for the 
sake of Alexander. In the end the young Hebrew be- 
comes a prophet. You have no idea what a fine plot it 
is ! Just now I am writing a symphonic sketch, Fatum* 
The Italian opera is creating a furore. Artot is a splendid 
creature. She and I are good friends." 

"Early in 1868," says Laroche, "an Italian opera com- 
pany visited Moscow for a few weeks, at the head of which 
was the impresario Merelli. Their performances at the 
Opera drew crowded houses. The company consisted of 
fifth-rate singers, who had neither voices nor talent ; the 
one exception was a woman of thirty, not good-looking, 
but with a passionate and expressive face, who had just 
reached the climax of her art, and soon afterwards began 
to go off, both in voice and appearance. 

" Desiree Artot, a daughter of the celebrated horn-player 
Artot, and a niece of the still more renowned violinist, 

1 In my volume upon Tchaikovsky I have called this work Destiny. R. N. 


had been trained by Pauline Viardot-Garcia. Her voice 
was powerful, and adapted to express intense dramatic 
pathos, but unfortunately it had no reserve force, and 
began to deteriorate comparatively early, so that six or 
seven years after the time of which I am speaking it had 
completely lost its charm. Besides its dramatic quality, 
her voice was suitable for florid vocalisation, and her lower 
notes were so good that she could take many mezzo- 
soprano parts ; consequently her repertory was almost un- 
limited. ... It is not too much to say that in the whole 
world of music, in the entire range of lyrical emotion, 
there was not a single idea, or a single form, of which this 
admirable artist could not give a poetical interpretation. 
The timbre of her voice was more like the oboe than the 
flute, and was penetrated by such indescribable beauty, 
warmth, and passion, that everyone who heard it was 
fascinated and carried away. I have said that Desiree 
Artot was not good-looking. At the same time, without 
recourse to artificial aids, her charm was so great that she 
won all hearts and turned all heads, as though she had 
been the loveliest of women. The delicate texture and 
pallor of her skin, the plastic grace of her movements, the 
beauty of her neck and arms, were not her only weapons ; 
under the irregularity of her features lay some wonderful 
charm of attraction, and of all the many ' Gretchens ' I 
have seen in my day, Artot was by far the most ideal, 
the most fascinating. 

" This was chiefly due to her talent as an actress. I 
have never seen anyone so perfectly at home on the stage 
as she was. From the first entrance, to the last cry of 
triumph or despair, the illusion was perfect. Not a single 
movement betrayed intention or pre-consideration. She 
was equally herself in a tragic, comic, or comedy part." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" October 2ist (November 2nd}. 

" I am very busy writing choruses and recitatives to 
Auber's Domino Noir> which is to be given for Artot's 
benefit. Merelli will pay me for the work. I have be- 
come very friendly with Artot, and am glad to know some- 


thing of her remarkable character. I have never met a 
kinder, a better, or a cleverer woman. 

" Anton Rubinstein has been here. He played divinely, 
and created an indescribable sensation. He has not 
altered, and is as nice as ever. 

" My orchestral fantasia Fatum is finished." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 


" Oh, Moding, I long to pour my impressions into your 
artistic soul. If only you knew what a singer and actress 
Artot is ! ! I have never experienced such powerful 
artistic impressions as just recently. How delighted you 
would be with the grace of her movements and poses ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 


"... I have not written to you for a long while, but 
many things now make it impossible for me to write 
letters, for all my leisure is given to one of whom you 
have already heard whom I love dearly. 

" My musical situation is as follows : Two of my piano- 
forte pieces are to be published in a day or two. I have 
arranged twenty-five Russian folksongs for four hands, 
which will be published immediately, and I have orches- 
trated my fantasia Fatum for the fifth concert of the 
Musical Society. 

" Recently a concert was given here for the benefit of poor 
students, in which ' the one being ' sang for the last time 
before her departure, and Nicholas Rubinstein played my 
pianoforte piece dedicated to Artot." 

To his father. 

"December 26th (January 7^, 1869). 

" MY DEAR, KIND DAD ! To my great annoyance, cir- 
cumstances have prevented my going to Petersburg. This 
journey would have cost me at least a hundred roubles, 
and just now I do not possess them. Consequently I must 


send my New Year's wishes by letter. I wish you happi- 
ness and all good things. As rumours of my engagement 
will doubtless have reached you, and you may feel hurt at 
my silence upon the subject, I will tell you the whole 
story. I made the acquaintance of Artot in the spring, 
but only visited her once, when I went to a supper given 
after her benefit performance. After she returned here in 
autumn I did not call on her for a whole month. Then we 
met by chance at a musical evening. She expressed sur- 
prise that I had not called, and I promised to do so, a pro- 
mise I should never have kept (because of my shyness with 
new friends) if Anton Rubinstein, in passing through 
Moscow, had not dragged me there. Afterwards I re- 
ceived constant invitations, and got into the way of going 
to her house daily. Soon we began to experience a mutual 
glow of tenderness, and an understanding followed imme- 
diately. Naturally the question of marriage arose at once, 
and, if nothing hinders it, our wedding is to take place in 
the summer. But the worst is that there are several 
obstacles. First, there is her mother, who always lives with 
her, and has considerable influence upon her daughter. 
She is not in favour of the match, because she considers 
me too young, and probably fears lest I should expect her 
daughter to live permanently in Russia. Secondly, my 
friends, especially N. Rubinstein, are trying might and 
main to prevent my marriage. They declare that, married 
to a famous singer, I should play the pitiable part of 
' husband of my wife ' ; that I should live at her expense 
and accompany her all over Europe ; finally, that I should 
lose all opportunities of working, and that when my first 
love had cooled, I should know nothing but disenchant- 
ment and depression. The risk of such a catastrophe 
might perhaps be avoided, if she would consent to leave 
the stage and live entirely in Russia. But she declares 
that in spite of all her love for me, she cannot make up 
her mind to give up the profession which brings her in so 
much money, and to which she has grown accustomed. At 
present she is on her way to Moscow. Meanwhile we have 
agreed that I am to visit her in summer at her country 
house (near Paris), when our fate will be decided. 

"If she will not consent to give up the stage, I, on my 


part, hesitate to sacrifice my future ; for it is clear that 
I shall lose all opportunity of making my own way, if I 
blindly follow in her train. You see, Dad, my situation 
is a very difficult one. On the one hand, I love her heart 
and soul, and feel I cannot live any longer without her; on 
the other hand, calm reason bids me to consider more 
closely all the misfortunes with which my friends threaten 
me. I shall wait, my dear, for your views on the subject. 

" I am quite well, and my life goes on as usual only 
I am unhappy now she is not here." 

Tchaikovsky received the following letter in reply : 

"December 29^, 1868 (January loth, 1869). 

" MY DEAR PETER, You ask my advice upon the most 
momentous event in your life. . . . You are both artists, 
both make capital out of your talents ; but while she has 
made both money and fame, you have hardly begun to 
make your way, and God knows whether you will ever 
attain to what she has acquired. Your friends know your 
gifts, and fear they may suffer by your marriage I think 
otherwise. You, who gave up your official appointment 
for the sake of your talent, are not likely to forsake your 
art, even if you are not altogether happy at first, as is the 
fate of nearly all musicians. You are proud, and therefore 
you find it unpleasant not to be earning sufficient to keep 
a wife and be independent of her purse. Yes, dear fellow, 
I understand you well enough. It is bitter and unpleasant. 
But if you are both working and earning together there 
can be no question of reproach ; go your way, let her 
go hers, and help each other side by side. It would not 
be wise for either of you to give up your chosen vocations 
until you have saved enough to say : * This is ours, we have 
earned it in common.' 

" Let us analyse these words : ' In marrying a famous 
singer you will be playing the pitiable part of attendant 
upon her journeys ; you will live on her money and lose 
your own chances of work.' If your love is not a fleeting, 
but solid sentiment, as it ought to be in people of your 
age ; if your vows are sincere and unalterable, then all 
these misgivings are nonsense. Married happiness is based 


upon mutual respect, and you would no more permit your 
wife to be a kind of servant, than she would ask you to be 
her lackey. The travelling is not a matter of any im- 
portance, so long as it does not prevent your composing 
it will even give you opportunities of getting your operas 
or symphonies performed in various places. A devoted 
friend will help to inspire you. When all is set down 
in black and white, with such a companion as your chosen 
one, your talent is more likely to progress than to deteri- 
orate. (2) Even if your first passion for her does cool 
somewhat, will 'nothing remain but disenchantment and 
depression ' ? But why should love grow cold ? I lived 
twenty-one years with your mother, and during all that 
time I loved her just the same, with the ardour of a young 
man, and respected and worshipped her as a saint. . . . 
There is only one question I would ask you ; have you 
proved each other? Do you love each other truly, and 
for all time ? I know your character, my dear son, and 
I have confidence in you, but I have not as yet the happi- 
ness of knowing the dear woman of your choice. I only 
know her lovely heart and soul through you. It would 
be no bad thing if you proved each other, not by jealousy 
God forbid but by time. . . . 

" Describe her character to me in full, my dear. Does 
she translate that tender word ' Desiree ' ? A mother's wish 
counts for nothing in love affairs, but give it your con- 

Tchaikovsky to his brother Anatol. 


"Just now I am very much excited. The Voyevode 
is about to be performed. Everyone is taking the greatest 
pains, so I can hope for a good performance. Menshikova 
will do very well ; she sings the ' Nightingale ' song in the 
second act beautifully. The tenor is not amiss, but the 
bass is bad. If the work goes well I shall try to arrange 
for you both to come here in the Carnival Week, so that 
you may hear it. 

" I have already begun upon a second opera, but I must 
not tell you about the subject, because I want to keep 
it a secret that I have anything in hand. How astonished 


they will be to find in summer that half the opera is 
already put together! (I hope in summer I shall have 
some chance of working). . . . 

" With regard to the love affair I had early in the 
winter, I may tell you that it is very doubtful whether 
I shall enter Hymen's bonds or not. Things are beginning 
to go rather awry. I will tell you more about it later on. 
I have not time now." 

During this month (January) Desiree Artot, without 
a word of explanation to her first lover, was married to 
the baritone singer Padilla at Warsaw. 

The news reached Tchaikovsky at a moment when his 
whole mind, time, and interests were absorbed by the 
production of his first opera, and, judging from the tone 
of his letters, it was owing to these circumstances that it 
affected him less painfully than might have been expected. 

In any case, after the first hours of bitterness, Tchai- 
kovsky bore no grudge against the faithless lady. She 
remained for him the most perfect artist he had ever 
known. As a woman she was always dear to his memory. 
A year later he had to meet her again, and wrote of the 
prospect as follows : 

" I shall have very shortly to meet Artot. She is coming 
here, and I cannot avoid a meeting, because immediately 
after her arrival we begin the rehearsals for Le Domino 
Noir (for which I have written recitatives and choruses), 
which I shall be compelled to attend. This woman has 
caused me to experience many bitter hours, and yet I am 
drawn to her by such an inexplicable sympathy that 
I begin to look forward to her coming with feverish 

They met as friends. All intimate relations were at an 

" When, in 1869, Artot reappeared at the Moscow Opera," 
says Kashkin, " I sat in the stalls next to Tchaikovsky, 
who was greatly moved. When the singer came on, he held 


his opera glasses to his eyes and never lowered them 
during the entire performance ; but he must have seen 
very little, for tear after tear rolled down his cheeks." 

Twenty years later they met once more. Youthful love 
and mutual sympathy had then given place to a steady 
friendship, which lasted the rest of their lives. 

On January 3<Dth (February nth), 1869, The Voyevode 
was given for the first time for the singer Menshikova's 

The opera was very well received. The composer was 
recalled fifteen times and presented with a laurel wreath. 
The performance, however, was not without mishaps. 
Rapport, who took the lover's part, had been kept awake 
all night by an abscess on his finger, and was nearly fainting. 
" If Menshikova had not supported him in her arms, the 
curtain must have been rung down," wrote Tchaikovsky to 
his brothers. 

Kashkin says the chorus on a folksong, which occurred 
early in the opera, pleased at once, and the " Nightingale " 
song became a favourite. The tenor solo, "Glow, O Dawn- 
light," based upon the pentatonic scale, and the duet 
between Olona and Maria, " The moon sails calmly," and 
the last quartet all met with great success. 

But the stormy ovation at the first performance, the 
enthusiasm of the composer's friends, and the apprecia- 
tion of one or two specialists, could not create a lasting 
success. The opera was only heard five times, and then 
disappeared from the repertory for ever. 

The first words of disapprobation and harsh criticism 
came from an unexpected quarter from Laroche. It was 
not only his " faint praise " of this work, but the con- 
temptuous attitude which Laroche now assumed towards 
Tchaikovsky's talent as a whole, which wounded the com- 
poser so deeply that he broke off all connection with his 
old friend. 

Soon after the production of The Voyevode Tchaikovsky's 



symphonic fantasia Fatum (or Destiny] was given for the 
first time at the eighth concert of the Musical Society. 
By way of programme for this work, which he dedicated 
to Balakirev, Tchaikovsky chose the following lines from 
Batioushkov : 

" Thou knowest what the white-haired Melchisedek 
Said when he left this life : Man is born a slave, 
A slave he dies. Will even Death reveal to him 
Why thus he laboured in this vale of tears, 
Why thus he suffered, wept, endured then vanished ?" 

To the choice of this motto attaches a history in which 
a certain Sergius Rachinsky played a part. This gentle- 
man, Professor of Botany at the Moscow University, was 
one of Tchaikovsky's earliest and most enthusiastic ad- 
mirers. Rachinsky was a lover of music and literature, 
but held the most unusual views upon these, as upon all 
other subjects. For instance, he saw nothing in Ostrovsky, 
then at the height of his fame, but discerned in Tchai- 
kovsky, who was hardly known to the world, the making 
of a " great " composer. 

When, in 1871, the musician dedicated to Rachinsky his 
first quartet, the latter exclaimed with enthusiasm : " C'est 
un brevet d'immortalite que j'ai regu." 

Originally Fatum had no definite programme. 

"When the books for the concert were about to be 
printed," relates Rachinsky, " Rubinstein, who was always 
very careful about such details, considered the bare title 
Fatum insufficient, and suggested that an appropriate 
verse should be added. It chanced that I, who had not 
heard a note of the new work, had dropped in upon 
Rubinstein, and the verses of Batioushkov flashed across 
my mind. Rubinstein asked me to write them down at 
once, and added them to the programme-book with the 
composer's consent." 

The quotation, therefore, has not the significance of a 


programme, but was merely an epigraph added to the 

The composer declared that Fatum had a "distinct 
success " with the public, and added that he " considered it 
the best work he had written so far," and " others are of 
my opinion." From this we may gather that, with the 
exception of Laroche, Tchaikovsky's musical friends were 
pleased with this composition. 

Fatum was given almost simultaneously by the Peters- 
burg section of the Musical Society, under Balakirev's 
direction. But here the fantasia fell flat, and pleased 
neither the public nor the musicians. 

Nevertheless, Cui did not handle the young composer 
so severely as on the occasion of his Diploma Cantata. 
He found fault with a good deal in Fatum, but described 
the music as being on the whole " agreeable, but not in- 
spired," the instrumentation "somewhat rough," and the 
harmonies " bold and new, if not invariably beautiful." 

Balakirev to whom the work was dedicated did not 
admire it, and his feelings were shared by the rest of the 
" Invincible Band." He wrote to Tchaikovsky as follows : 

"Your Fatum has been played, and I venture to hope 
the performance was not bad at least everyone seemed 
satisfied with it. There was not much applause, which 
I ascribe to the hideous crash at the end. The work itself 
does not please me ; it is not sufficiently thought out, and 
shows signs of having been written hastily. In many 
places the joins and tacking-threads are too perceptible. 
Laroche says it is because you do not study the classics 
sufficiently. I put it down to another cause : you are too 
little acquainted with modern music. You will never 
learn freedom of form from the classical composers. You 
will find nothing new there. They can only give you 
what you knew already, when you sat on the students' 
benches and listened respectfully to Zaremba's learned 
discourses upon 'The Connection between Rondo-form 
and Man's First Fall.' 


"At the same concert Les Preludes of Liszt was per- 
formed. Observe the wonderful form of this work ; how 
one thing follows another quite naturally. This is no 
mere motley, haphazard affair. Or take Glinka's Night 
in Madrid ; in what a masterly fashion the various sec- 
tions of this overture are fused together ! It is just this 
organic coherence and connection that are lacking in 
Fatum. I have chosen Glinka as an example because 
I believe you have studied him a great deal, and I could 
see all through Fatum you were under the influence of 
one of his choruses. 

" The verse you chose as an epigraph is altogether be- 
neath criticism. It is a frightful specimen of manufactured 
rhyme. If you are really so attracted to Byronism, why 
not have chosen a suitable quotation from Lermontov? 
With the object of making the verse run smoother I left 
out the first two lines (Melchisedek seemed really too 
absurd !), but apparently I perpetrated a blunder. Our 
entire circle dropped upon me and assured me that the 
whole of the introduction to Fatum was intended to ex- 
press the awful utterance of Melchisedek himself. Per- 
haps they are right. If so, you must forgive my excellent 
intention. ... I write to you quite frankly, and feel sure 
you will not on this account abandon your intention of 
dedicating Fatum to me. This dedication is very 
precious, as indicating your regard for me, and on my 
part I reciprocate your feeling." 

Tchaikovsky did not resent Balakirev's opinion, although 
it may have wounded him. That he was grateful for the 
friendly tone of the letter, in which Balakirev's confidence 
in his talent was clearly perceptible, is evident from the 
fact that three months later he appeared in the press as 
the champion of the leader of the " Invincible Band." 
Moreover, after a short time, he shared Balakirev's opinion 
of his work, and destroyed the score of Fatum. 

Early in the season Tchaikovsky began to look out for 
material for a new opera. The chief requisite he asked 
was that the scene should not be laid in Russia. The dis- 
cussion with Ostrovsky of a plot from the period of 


Alexander the Great, mentioned in his letter of Sep- 
tember 25th, had come to nothing. Without applying to 
another librettist, he began to search for a ready-made 
text. Great was his joy to discover a book among the 
works of Count Sollogoub, based upon his favourite poem, 
Joukovsky's " Undine." 

Without reflection, or closer inspection of the libretto, he 
began to compose with fervour, even in the midst of the 
rehearsals for The Voyevode ; that is in January, 1869. 
By February he had already written most of the first act. 
The two following acts he wrote in April, and began the 
orchestration in the course of the same month. He hoped 
to complete the first act in May, and the remainder during 
the summer, and to send the whole score to the Direction 
of the Petersburg Opera by November, when Gedeonov 
had given him a formal promise to produce it. 

This feverish work, the many excitements of the winter 
season, his anxiety about the elder of the twins, who had 
to pass his final examination at the School of Jurisprudence, 
and all the trouble and correspondence involved in trying 
to find him an opening in Moscow, told upon Tchaikovsky's 
nerves. His health was so far impaired that he gradually 
lost strength, until he became quite exhausted, and the 
doctor ordered him to the seaside, or to an inland watering- 
place, enjoining absolute repose. 

The summer was spent with his sister at Kamenka, where 
the whole family was gathered together, with the exception 
of Nicholas. In June they celebrated the wedding of his 
brother, Hyppolite, to Sophia Nikonov, and Tchaikovsky, 
having recovered his spirits, took a leading part in all the 

The score of Undine was finished by the end of July, 
and the composer returned to Moscow earlier than usual 
about the beginning of August. 




To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" 'August nM (23^, 1869. 

". . . We have taken new quarters; my room is upstairs, 
and there is a place for you too. I made every possible 
pretext for living alone, but I could not manage it. How- 
ever, now I shall pay my own expenses and keep my own 
servant. . . . Begichev has taken my opera to Petersburg. 
Whether it is produced or not, I have finished with it and 
can turn to something else. Balakirev is staying here. We 
often meet, and I always come to the conclusion that in 
spite of his worthiness his society weighs upon me like 
a stone. I particularly dislike the narrowness of his views, 
and the persistence with which he upholds them. At the 
same time his short visit has been of benefit to me in 
many respects." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"August iSM (so/A). 

"I have no news to give. Balakirev leaves to-day. 
Although he has sometimes bored me, I must in justice 
say that he is a good, honourable man, and immeasurably 
above the average as an artist. We have just taken a 
touching farewell of each other. . . . 

" I gave an evening party not long since. Balakirev, 
Borodin, Kashkin, Klimenko, Arnold and Plestcheiev were 
among the guests. 

" I met Laroche in The Hermitage and said ' Good-day/ 
but I have no intention of making it up with him." 

Towards the end of September, 1869, Tchaikovsky set 
to work upon his overture to Romeo and Juliet, to which he 
had been incited by Balakirev's suggestions. Indeed, the 
latter played so important a part in the genesis of this 
work that it is necessary to speak of it in detail. 

Balakirev not only suggested the subject, but took such 



a lively interest in the work that he kept up a continuous 
current of good advice and solicitations. In October he 
wrote : 

"It strikes me that your inactivity proceeds from your 
lack of concentration, in spite of your ' snug workshop.' 
I do not know your method of composing, mine is as 
follows : when I wrote my King Lear, having first read the 
play, I felt inspired to compose an overture (which Stassov 
had already suggested to me). At first I had no actual 
material, I only warmed to the project. An Introduction, 
' maestoso/ followed by something mystical (Kent's Pre- 
diction). The Introduction dies away and gives place to 
a stormy allegro. This is Lear himself, the discrowned, 
but still mighty, lion. By way of episodes the characteristic 
themes of Regan and Goneril, and then a second subject 
Cordelia, calm and tender. The middle section (storm, 
Lear and the Fool on the heath) and repetition of the 
allegro : Regan and Goneril finally crush their father, and 
the overture dies away softly (Lear over Cordelia's corpse), 
then the prediction of Kent is heard once more, and finally 
the peaceful and solemn note of death. You must under- 
stand that, so far, I had no definite musical ideas. These 
came later and took their place within my framework. 
I believe you will feel the same, if once you are inspired by 
the project. Then arm yourself with goloshes and a walk- 
ing-stick and go for a constitutional on the Boulevards, 
starting with the Nikitsky ; let yourself be saturated with 
your plan, and I am convinced by the time you reach the 
Sretensky Boulevard some theme or episode will have 
come to you. Just at this moment, thinking of your 
overture, an idea has come to me involuntarily, and I seem 
to see that it should open with a fierce ' allegro with the 
clash of swords.' Something like this : 

Blech fis 3: 


" I should begin in this style. If I were going to write 
the overture I should become enthusiastic over this germ, 
and I should brood over it, or rather turn it over in my 
mind until something vital came of it. 

"If these lines have a good effect upon you I shall 
be very pleased. I have a certain right to hope for this, 
because your letters do me good. Your last, for instance, 
made me so unusually light-hearted that I rushed out into 
the Nevsky Prospect ; I did not walk, I danced along, and 
composed part of my Tamara as I went." 

When Balakirev heard that Tchaikovsky was actually 
at work, he wrote in November : 

" I am delighted to hear that the child of your fancy 
has quickened. God grant it comes to a happy birth. 
I am very curious to know what you have put into the 
overture. Do send me what you have done so far, and 
I promise not to make any remarks good or bad until 
the thing is finished." 

After Tchaikovsky had acceded to Balakirev's request, 
and sent him the chief subjects of his overture, he received 
the following answer, which caused him to make some 
modifications in the work : 

"... As your overture is all but finished, and will soon 
be played, I will tell you what I think of it quite frankly 
(I do not use this word in Zaremba's sense). The first 
subject does not please me at all. Perhaps it improves in 
the working out I cannot say but in the crude state in 
which it lies before me it has neither strength nor beauty, 
and does not sufficiently suggest the character of Father 
Lawrence. Here something like one of Liszt's chorales 
in the old Catholic Church style would be very appro- 
priate (The Night Procession, Hunnenschlacht, and St. 
Elizabeth} ; your motive is of quite a different order, in the 
style of a quartet by Haydn, that genius of "burgher" 
music which induces a fierce thirst for beer. There is 
nothing of old-world Catholicism about it ; it recalls rather 


the type of Gogol's Comrade Kunz, who wanted to cut off 
his nose to save the money he spent on snuff. But possibly 
in its development your motive may turn out quite differ- 
ently, in which case I will eat my own words. 

" As to the B minor theme, it seems to me less a theme 
than a lovely introduction to one, and after the agitated 
movement in C major, something very forcible and ener- 
getic should follow. I take it for granted that it will 
really be so, and that you were too lazy to write out the 

" The first theme in D flat major is very pretty, although 
rather colourless. The second, in the same key, is simply 
fascinating. I often play it, and would like to hug you for 
it. It has the sweetness of love, its tenderness, its longing, 
in a word, so much that must appeal to the heart of that 
immoral German, Albrecht. I have only one thing to say 
against this theme : it does not sufficiently express a 
mystic, inward, spiritual love, but rather a fantastic pas- 
sionate glow which has hardly any nuance of Italian 
sentiment. Romeo and Juliet were not Persian lovers, 
but Europeans. I do not know if you will understand 
what I am driving at I always feel the lack of appro- 
priate words when I speak of music, and I am obliged 
to have recourse to comparison in order to explain myself. 
One subject in which spiritual love is well expressed 
according to my ideas is the second theme in Schu- 
mann's overture, The Bride of Messina. The subject has 
its weak side too ; it is morbid and somewhat sentimental 
at the end, but the fundamental emotion is sincere. 

" I am impatient to receive the entire score, so that 
I may get a just impression of your clever overture, which 
is so far your best work ; the fact that you have dedi- 
cated it to me affords me the greatest pleasure. It is the 
first of your compositions which contains so many beauti- 
ful things that one does not hesitate to pronounce it good 
as a whole. It cannot be compared with that old Mel- 
chisedek, who was so drunk with sorrow that he must 
needs dance his disgusting trepak in the Arbatsky Square. 
Send me the score soon ; I am longing to see it." 

But even in a somewhat modified form, Balakirev was 


not quite satisfied with the overture, On January 22nd 
(February 3rd), 1871, he wrote as follows : 

" I am very pleased with the introduction, but the end is 
not at all to my taste. It is impossible to write of it 
in detail. It would be better if you came here, so that 
I could tell you what I think of it. In the middle section 
you have done something new and good ; the alternating 
chords above the pedal-point, rather a la Russian. The 
close becomes very commonplace, and the whole of the 
section after the end of the second subject (D major) 
seems to have been dragged from your brain by main 
force. The actual ending is not bad, but why those accen- 
tuated chords in the very last bars? This seems to con- 
tradict the meaning of the play, and is inartistic. Nadejda 
Nicholaevna 1 has scratched out these chords with her own 
fair hands, and wants to make the pianoforte arrangement 
end pianissimo. I do not know whether you will consent 
to this alteration." 

When this arbitrary treatment of the composer's inten- 
tion had been carried through, the indefatigable critic 
wrote once more : 

" It is a pity that you, or rather Rubinstein, should have 
hurried the publication of the overture. Although the new 
introduction is a decided improvement, yet I had still 
a great desire to see some other alterations made in the 
work, and hoped it might remain longer in your hands for 
the sake of your future compositions. However, I hope 
Jurgenson will not refuse to print a revised and improved 
version of the overture at some future time. 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" October >]th (igth). 

" The Conservatoire begins already to be repugnant to 
me, and the lessons I am obliged to give fatigue me as 

1 Madame Rimsky-Korsakov, nde Pourgold. In his final arrangement 
Tchaikovsky omitted these chords himself. 


they did last year. Just now I am not working at all. 
Romeo and Juliet is finished. Yesterday I received a 
commission from Bessel. He asked me to arrange Rubin- 
stein's overture to Ivan the Terrible. I have had a letter 
from Balakirev scolding me because I am doing nothing. 
I hear nothing definite about my opera : they say it will 
be performed, but the date is uncertain. I often go to 
the opera. The sisters Marchisio are good, especially in 
Semiramide. Yet when I hear them I am more and more 
convinced that Artot is the greatest artist in the world." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"November 18/^(30^). 

"Yesterday I received very sad news from Petersburg. 
My opera is to wait until next season, because there is not 
sufficient time to study the two operas which stand before 
mine in the repertory : Moniuszko's Halka and Diitsch's 
Croat. I am not likely therefore to come to Petersburg. 
From the pecuniary point of view the postponement of 
my opera is undesirable. Morally, too, it is bad for me ; 
that is to say, I shall be incapable of any work for two or 
three weeks to come." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

11 January \$th (25^), 1870. 

" Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov have been here. We 
saw each other every day. Balakirev begins to respect me 
more and more. Korsakov has dedicated a charming song 
to me. My overture pleased them both, and I like it 
myself. Besides the overture, I have recently composed a 
chorus from the opera Mandragora, the text of which, by 
Rachinsky, is already known to you. I intended to write 
music to this libretto, but my friends dissuaded me, because 
they considered the opera gave too little scope for stage 
effects. Now Rachinsky is writing another book for me, 
called Raymond Lully" 

Kashkin was one of the friends who dissuaded Tchai- 
kovsky from composing Mandragora. The latter played 


him a ' Chorus of Insects ' from the unfinished work, which 
pleased him very much. But he thought the subject more 
suitable for a ballet than an opera. A fierce argument 
took place which lasted a long time. Finally, with tears 
in his eyes, Tchaikovsky came round to Kashkin's view, 
and relinquished his intention of writing this opera. It 
made him very unhappy and more chary in future of 
confiding his plans to his friends. 

Laroche gives the following account of this unpublished 
chorus : 

" ' The Elves' Chorus ' is intended for boys' voices in 
unison, with accompaniment for mixed chorus and or- 
chestra. The atmosphere of a calm moonlight night 
(described in the text) and the fantastic character of the 
scene are admirably reproduced. In this chorus we find 
not only that silky texture, that softness, distinction, and 
delicacy which Tchaikovsky shows in all his best work, 
but far more marked indications of maturity than in any 
of his earlier compositions. The orchestration is very rich, 
and on the whole original, although the influence of Berlioz 
is sometimes noticeable." 

To his sister, A. Davidov. 

"February 5/^(17^). 

"One thing troubles me: there is no one in Moscow 
with whom I can enter into really intimate, familiar, and 
homely relations. I often think how happy I should be if 
you, or someone like you, lived here. I have a great 
longing for the sound of children's voices, and for a share 
in all the trifling interests of a home in a word, for family 

" I intend to begin a third opera ; this time on a subject 
borrowed from Lajetnikov's tragedy, The Oprichnik. My 
Undine is to be produced at the beginning of next season, 
if they do not fail me. Although the spring is still far off 
and the frosts are hardly over yet, I have already begun 
to think of the summer, and to long for the early spring 
sunshine, which always has such a good effect upon me." 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" March $rd (15^), 1870. 

"... The day after to-morrow my overture Romeo and 
Juliet will be performed. There has been a rehearsal 
already : the work does not seem detestable. But the 
Lord only knows ! . . . 

" In the third week of Lent excerpts from my opera 
Undine will be played at Merten's 1 concert. I am very 
curious to hear them. Sietov writes that there is every 
reason to believe the opera will be given early next 

Merten's concert took place on March i6th (28th). 
Kashkin says it gave further proof how hardly Tchai- 
kovsky conquered the public sympathy. 

"In the orchestration of the aria from Undine? he says, 
"the pianoforte plays an important and really beautiful 
part. Nicholas Rubinstein undertook to play it ; yet, in 
spite of the wonderful rendering of the piece, it had very 
little success. After the adagio from the First Symphony 
also included in the programme even a slight hissing 
was heard. The Italian craze was still predominant at 
the Opera House, so that it was very difficult for a Russian 
work to find recognition." 

Romeo and Juliet ', given at the Musical Society's Concert 
on March 4th (i6th), had no success. 

On the previous day the decision in the case of 
" Schebalsky v. Rubinstein " had been made public, and 
the Director of the Conservatoire had been ordered to pay 
25 roubles, damages for the summary and wrongful dis- 
missal of this female student. Rubinstein refused to pay, 
and gave notice of appeal, but the master's admirers 
immediately collected the small sum, in order to spare him 

1 Conductor at the Opera House. 


the few hours' detention which his refusal involved. This 
event gave rise to a noisy demonstration when he ap- 
peared in public. Kashkin says : 

"From the moment Nicholas Rubinstein came on the 
platform, until the end of the concert, he was made the 
subject of an extraordinary ovation. No one thought of 
the concert or the music, and I felt indignant that the first 
performance of Romeo and Juliet should have taken place 
under such conditions." 

So it came about that the long-desired evening, which 
he hoped would bring him a great success, brought only 
another disillusionment for Tchaikovsky. The composer's 
melancholy became a shade darker. " I just idle away the 
time cruelly," he writes, " and my opera, The Oprichnik^ has 
come to a standstill at the first chorus." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" March 2$th (April 6th). 

" I congratulate you on leaving school. Looking back 
over the years that have passed since I left the School of 
Jurisprudence, I observe with some satisfaction that the 
time has not been lost. I wish the same for you. . . ." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"April 2$rd (May $th). 

" Rioumin x wants to convert me at any price. He has 
given me a number of religious books, and I have 
promised to read them all. In any case, I now walk 
in ways of godliness. In Passion week I fasted with 

" About the middle of May I shall probably go abroad. 
I am partly pleased at the prospect and partly sorry, 
because I shall not see you." 

1 Constantine Ivanovich Rioumin, the guardian of Vladimir Shilovsky. 


To I. A. Klimenko. 

"May \st(i$th\ 1870. 

". . . First I must tell you that I am sitting at the open 
window (at four a.m.) and breathing the lovely air of a 
spring morning. It is remarkable that in my present 
amiable mood I am suddenly seized with a desire to talk 
to you to you of all people, you ungrateful creature ! 
I want to tell you that life is still good, and that it is worth 
living on a May morning; and so, at four o'clock in the 
morning, I am pouring out my heart to you, while you, 
O empoisoned and lifeless being, will only laugh at me. 
Well, laugh away ; all the same, I assert that life is beauti- 
ful in spite of everything ! This ' everything ' includes the 
following items : i. Illness ; I am getting much too stout, 
and my nerves are all to pieces. 2. The Conservatoire 
oppresses me to extinction ; I am more and more con- 
vinced that I am absolutely unfitted to teach the theory of 
music. 3. My pecuniary situation is very bad. 4. I am 
very doubtful if Undine will be performed. I have heard 
that they are likely to throw me over. In a word, there 
are many thorns, but the roses are there too. . . . 

"As regards ambition, I must tell you that I have cer- 
tainly not been flattered of late. My songs were praised 
by Laroche, although Cui has * slated ' them, and Balakirev 
thinks them so bad that he persuaded Khvostova who 
wanted to sing the one Phad dedicated to her not to ruin 
with its presence a programme graced by the names of 
Moussorgsky & Co. 

" My overture, Romeo and Juliet, had hardly any success 
here, and has remained quite unnoticed. I thought a great 
deal about you that night. After the concert we supped, 
a large party, at Gourin's (a famous restaurant). No one 
said a single word about the overture during the evening. 
And yet I yearned so for appreciation and kindness ! 
Yes, I thought a great deal about you, and of your en- 
couraging sympathy. I do not know whether the slow 
progress of my opera, The Oprichnik is due to the fact 
that no one takes any interest in what I write ; I am very 
doubtful if I shall get it finished for at least two years." 


Tchaikovsky spent only a few days in St. Petersburg 
before going abroad. There he heard the final verdict 
upon his opera Undine. The conference of the Capell- 
meisters of the Imperial Opera, with Constantine Liadov 
at their head, did not consider the work worthy of pro- 
duction. How the composer took this decision, what he 
felt and thought of it, we can only guess from our know- 
ledge of his susceptible artistic amour propre. At the 
time, he never referred to the matter, either in letters 
or in conversation. Eight years afterwards he wrote as 
follows : 

"The Direction put aside my Undine in 1870. At the 
time I felt much embittered, and it seemed to me an 
injustice ; but in the end I was not pleased with the work 
myself, and I burnt the score about three years ago." 

Tchaikovsky travelled from St. Petersburg to Paris with- 
out a break, being anxious to reach his friend Shilovsky 
with all possible speed. He half feared to find him already 
on his death-bed. The young man was extremely weak, 
but able to travel to Soden at the end of three days. The 
atmosphere of ill-health in which Tchaikovsky found him- 
self Soden is a resort for consumptive patients was very 
depressing, but he determined to endure it for his friend's 

" The care of Volodya," l he wrote, " is a matter of con- 
science with me, for his life hangs by a thread ... his 
affection for me, and his delight on my arrival, touched me 
so deeply that I am glad to take upon myself the role of 
an Argus, and be the saviour of his life." 

But by coming abroad he sacrificed all opportunity of 
seeing the twins and his sister Alexandra during the 
summer vacation. 

1 Short for Vladimir. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" SODEN, June 2^th (July 6th). 

" We lead a monotonous existence, and are dreadfully 
bored, but for this very reason my health is first-rate. 
The saline baths do me a great deal of good, and, apart 
from them, the way of living is excellent. I am very lazy, 
and have not the least desire to work. A few days ago 
a great festival took place at Mannheim, on the occasion 
of the hundredth anniversary of Beethoven's birth. This 
festival, to which we went, lasted three days. The pro- 
gramme was very interesting, and the performance superb. 
The orchestra consisted of various bands from the different 
Rhenish towns. The chorus numbered 400. I have 
never heard such a fine and powerful choir in my life. 
The well-known composer, Lachner, conducted. Among 
other things I heard for the first time the difficult Missa 
Solennis. It is one of the most inspired musical 

" I have been to Wiesbaden to see Nicholas Rubinstein. 
I found him in the act of losing his last rouble at roulette, 
which did not prevent our spending a very pleasant day 
together. He is quite convinced he will break the bank 
before he leaves Wiesbaden. I long to be with you all." 

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war drove all the 
visitors at Soden into the neutral territory of Switzerland. 
It was little less than a stampede, and Tchaikovsky de- 
scribes their experiences in a letter to his brother Modeste, 
dated July I2th (24th), 1870: 


" We have been here three days, and shall probably re- 
main a whole month. . . . The crush in the railway 
carriages was indescribable, and it was very difficult to get 
anything to eat and drink. Thank God, however, here 
we are in Switzerland, where everything goes on in its 
normal course. Dear Modi, I cannot tell you what I feel 
in the presence of these sublime beauties of Nature, which 
no one can imagine without beholding them. My as- 
tonishment, my admiration, pass all bounds. I rush 


about like one possessed, and never feel tired. Volodi, 
who takes no delight in Nature, and is only interested in 
the Swiss cheeses, laughs heartily at me. What will it be 
like a few days hence, when I shall scramble through the 
passes and over glaciers by myself! I return to Russia at 
the end of August." 

Tchaikovsky spent six weeks in Switzerland, and then 
went on to Munich, where he stayed two days with his old 
friend Prince Galitsin. From thence he returned to 
St. Petersburg by Vienna, which delighted him more than 
any other town in the world. From Petersburg he went 
direct to Moscow in order to take up his work at the 

During the whole of his trip abroad Tchaikovsky, ac- 
cording to his own account, did no serious work beyond 
revising his overture Romeo and Juliet. Thanks to the 
exertions of N. Rubinstein and Professor Klindworth, the 
overture, in its new form, was published in Berlin the 
following season, and soon found its way into the pro- 
grammes of many musical societies in Germany. 

" Karl Klindworth came from London to Moscow in 
1868," says Laroche. "He was then thirty-eight, and 
at the zenith of his physical and artistic powers. He was 
tall and strongly built, with fair hair and bright blue eyes. 
His appearance accorded with our ideas of the Vikings of 
old ; he was, in fact, of Norwegian descent. He cordially 
detested London, where he had lived many years, although 
he spoke English fluently. London was at that time quite 
unprepared for the Wagnerian propaganda, and, apart 
from this, life had neither meaning nor charm for Klind- 
worth. As a pupil of Billow and Liszt, he had been de- 
voted to the Wagnerian cult from his youth. He was 
invited by Nicholas Rubinstein to come to Moscow as 
teacher of the pianoforte ; but he was not popular, either 
as a pianist, or in society. ... It would seem as though 
there could be no common meeting-ground between this 
Wagnerian fanatic and Tchaikovsky. If one desired to be 


logical, it would further appear that, as a composer, Tchai- 
kovsky would not only fail to interest Klindworth, but 
must seem to him quite in the wrong, since Wagner has 
written that concert and chamber music have long since 
had their day. But luckily men are devoid of the sense 
of logical sequence, and Klindworth proved a man of far 
more heart than one would have thought at first sight. 
Tchaikovsky charmed him from the first, not merely as a 
man, but as a composer. Klindworth was one of the first 
to spread Tchaikovsky's works abroad. It was owing to 
him that they became known in London and New York ; 
and it was through him also that Liszt made acquaintance 
with some of them. In Klindworth, Tchaikovsky found 
a faithful but despotic friend. Speaking picturesquely, 
Peter Ilich trembled before him like an aspen-leaf, did 
not dare openly to give his real opinions upon the com- 
poser of the Nibelungen Ring, and I believe he em- 
bellished as far as possible the views expressed in his 
articles from Bayreuth in order not to irritate Klindworth." 

While I am mentioning the important event of Tchai- 
kovsky's earliest introduction to Western Europe, I must 
recall the prophetic words of a young critic, then at the 
outset of his career. Five years before the appearance of 
the overture Romeo and Juliet^ in 1866, Laroche had 
written to his friend : 

"Your creative work will not really begin for another 
five years ; but these mature and classic works will sur- 
pass all that we have produced since Glinka's time." 

Being no musical critic, it is not for me to say whether, 
in truth, in all Russian musical literature nothing so re- 
markable as Romeo and Juliet had appeared since Glinka. 
I can only repeat what has been said by many musical 
authorities that my brother's higher significance in the 
world of art dates from this work. His individuality is 
here displayed for the first time in its fulness, and all that 
he had hitherto produced seems as in Laroche's prophecy 
to have been really preparatory work. 




During this period Tchaikovsky's spirits were, generally 
speaking, fairly bright. Only occasionally they were 
damped by anxiety about the twins, of whom the younger 
had left the School of Jurisprudence and obtained a post 
in Simbirsk. 1 His lack of experience led him into many 
blunders and mistakes, which gave trouble to his elder 
brother Peter. His affection and over-anxiety caused the 
latter to exaggerate the importance of these small errors 
of judgment, and he concerned himself greatly about the 
future of his precious charge. 

To I. A. Klimenko. 

" October 26th (November >jth\ 1870. 

"... Anton Rubinstein is staying here. He opened the 
season, playing the Schumann Concerto at the first concert 
(not very well), and also Mendelssohn's Variations and 
some Schumann Studies (splendidly). At the Quartet 
evening he played in his own Trio, which I do not much 
like. At an orchestral rehearsal, held specially for him, he 
conducted his new Don Quixote Fantasia. Very in- 
teresting ; first-rate in places. Besides this he has com- 
posed a violin concerto and a number of smaller pieces. 
Extraordinary fertility ! Nicholas Rubinstein lost all his 
money at roulette during the summer. At the present 
moment he is working, as usual, with unflagging energy. 

" I have written three new pieces, 2 and a song, 3 as well 
as going on with my opera and revising Romeo and Juliet" 

1 Modeste. 

2 Op. 9. Three pieces for piano "Reverie," "Polka de Salon," 

3 " So schnell vergessen." 


To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

(About the beginning of November?) 

"... My time is very much occupied. I have foolishly 
undertaken to write music for a ballet Cinderella, at a very 
small fee. The ballet has to be performed in December, 
and I have only just begun it ; but I cannot get out of the 
work, for the contract is already signed. Romeo and Juliet 
will be published in Berlin and performed in several 
German towns. . . ." 

To his sister ^ A. I. Davidov. 
"December 20//&, 1870 (January ist, 1871). 

" DEAREST, Your letter touched me deeply, and at the 
same time made me feel ashamed. I wonder that you 
could doubt, even for an instant, the constancy of my 
affection for you ! My silence proceeds partly from idle- 
ness, and partly from the fact that I need great peace 
of mind to write satisfactorily, and I hardly ever attain it. 
Either I am at the Conservatoire, or I am seizing a free 
hour for composition in feverish haste, or someone wants 
me to go out, or I have visitors at home, or I am so tired 
out I can only fall asleep. ... I have already told you 
what an important part you play in my life although you 
do not live near me. In dark hours my thoughts fly to 
you. ' If things go very badly with me, I shall go to 
Sasha/ I say to myself; or, 'I think I will do this, I am 
sure Sasha would advise it ' ; or, ' Shall I write to her ? 
What would she think of this . . . ? ' What a joy to think 
that if I could get away from these surroundings into 
another atmosphere I should sun myself in your kindly 
heart ! Next summer I will not fail to come to you. I 
shall not go abroad." 

To his father. 

" February itfh (26*6). 

" MY VERY DEAR FATHER, You say it would not be a 
bad thing if I wrote to you at least once a month. 

" No, not once a month, but at least once a week I 


ought to send you news of all I am doing, and I wonder 
you have not given me a good scolding before this ! But 
I will never again leave you so long without a letter. The 
news of the death of uncle Peter Petrovich 1 came to me 
several days ago. God give him everlasting peace, for his 
honest and pure soul deserved it ! I hope, dear, you are 
bearing this trouble bravely. Remember that poor uncle, 
with his indifferent health and his many old wounds, had 
enjoyed a fairly long life." 

This letter closes Tchaikovsky's correspondence for the 
year 1870-1. It is very probable that some of his letters 
may have been lost, but undoubtedly after February, 1871, 
he corresponded less frequently than before. 

Being very short of funds, he decided to act upon 
Rubinstein's advice to give a concert. To add to the 
interest of the programme he thought it well to include 
some new and important work of his own. He could not 
expect to fill the room, and an expensive orchestral con- 
cert was therefore out of the question. This led to the 
composition of the first String Quartet (D major). Tchai- 
kovsky was engaged upon this work during the whole 
of February. 

The concert took place on March i6th (28th) in the 
small hall of the Nobles' Assembly Rooms. Thanks to 
the services of the Musical Society's quartet, with F. Laub 
as leader, Nicholas Rubinstein at the piano, and Madame 
Lavrovsky then at the height of her popularity as 
vocalist, Tchaikovsky had a good, although not a crowded, 

In his reminiscences Kashkin says that among those 
who attended this concert was the celebrated novelist, 
I. S. Tourgeniev, who was staying in Moscow at the time, 
and was interested in the young composer, about whom he 
had heard abroad. This attention on the part of the great 
writer did not pass unnoticed, and was decidedly advan- 

1 The uncle whose establishment the Tchaikovskys shared in 1855. 


tageous for the musician. Tourgeniev expressed great 
appreciation of Tchaikovsky's works, although he arrived 
too late to hear the chief item on the programme, the 
Quartet in D major. 

At the end of May Tchaikovsky went to Konotop, 
where his eldest brother Nicholas Ilich was residing, and 
from thence to visit Anatol in Kiev. Afterwards the two 
brothers travelled to Kamenka, where they spent most 
of the summer. Tchaikovsky, however, devoted part of 
his holidays to his intimate friends Kondratiev and Shil- 

Kondratiev's property (the village of Nizy, in the Govern- 
ment of Kharkov) was beautifully situated on the prettiest 
river of Little Russia, the Psiol, and united all the natural 
charms of South Russia with the light green colouring 
of the northern landscape so dear to Tchaikovsky. Here 
in the hottest weather, instead of the oppressive and 
parched surroundings of Kamenka, he looked upon luxu- 
riant pastures, enclosed and shaded by ancient oaks. But 
what delighted him most was the river Psiol with its 
refreshing crystal waters. 

The place pleased Tchaikovsky, but his friend's style 
of living was not to his taste. It was too much like town 
life, with its guests and festivities, and he preferred Shil- 
ovsky's home at Ussovo, which was not so beautifully 
situated, but possessed the greater charms of simplicity, 
solitude, and quiet. Here he spent the last days of his 
vacation very happily, and for many years to come Ussovo 
was his ideal of a summer residence, for which he longed 
as soon as the trees and fields began to show the first 
signs of green. 




As I have already remarked, it was not Tchaikovsky's 
nature to force the circumstances of life to his own will. 
He could wait long and patiently and hope still longer. 
As in his early youth he had kept his yearning for music 
hidden in his heart, until the strength of his desire was 
such that nothing could shake his firm hold upon his 
chosen vocation, so now, from the beginning of his musical 
career, he was possessed by an intense longing to break 
away from all ties which withheld him from the chief aim 
of his existence to compose. 

Just as a few years earlier he continued his work in 
the Ministry of Justice in spite of its monotony, and kept 
up his social ties as though he were waiting until a com- 
plete disgust for his empty and aimless life should bring 
about a revulsion, so it was with him now. Although his 
duties at the Conservatoire were repugnant to him, and he 
often complained of the drawbacks of town life, which 
interfered with his creative work, he went on in his usual 
course, as though afraid that his need of excitement and 
pleasure was not quite satisfied, and might break out 

The time for the realisation of his dream of complete 
freedom was not yet come. Moscow was still necessary 
to his everyday life, and was not altogether unpleasant to 
him. He was still dependent on his surroundings. To 
break with them involved many considerations. Above 
all, he must have emancipated himself, although in a 
friendly way, from the influence of Nicholas Rubinstein. 
This was the first step to take in the direction of liberty. 
With all his affection and gratitude, with all his respect 


for Rubinstein as a man and an artist, he suffered a good 
deal under the despotism of this truest and kindest of 
friends. From morning till night he had to conform to 
his will in all the trifling details of daily existence, and 
this was the more unbearable because their ideas with 
regard to hours and occupations differed in most respects. 

Tchaikovsky had already made two attempts to leave 
Rubinstein and take rooms of his own. But only now 
was he able to carry out his wish. Nicholas Rubinstein 
absolutely stood in need of companionship, and Tchaikov- 
sky was fortunate in finding someone, in the person of 
N. A. Hubert, ready and willing to take his place. 

So it chanced that Tchaikovsky reached his thirty- 
second year before he began to lead an entirely indepen- 
dent existence. His delight at finding himself the sole 
master of his little flat of three rooms was indescribable. 
He took the greatest pains to make his new home as 
comfortable as possible with the small means at his 
disposal. His decorations were not sumptuous : a portrait 
of Anton Rubinstein, given to him by the painter Madame 
Bonne in 1865 ; a picture of Louis XVII. in the house of 
the shoemaker Simon, given to him by Begichev in Paris ; 
a large sofa and a few cheap chairs, comprised the com- 
poser's entire worldly goods. 

He now engaged a servant, named Michael Sofronov. 
Tchaikovsky never lost sight of this man, although he 
was afterwards replaced by his brother Alexis, who played 
rather an important part in his master's life. 

At this time the composer's income was slightly in- 
creased. His salary at the Conservatoire rose to 1,500 
roubles a year (150), while from the sale of his works, 
and from the Russian Musical Society, 1 he received about 
500 roubles more. 

Besides these 2,000 roubles, Tchaikovsky had another 

1 At the instigation of Nicholas Rubinstein, the Musical Society paid the 
composers about 200 to 300 roubles for new works performed at their 
Symphony Concerts. 


small source of income, namely, his earnings as a musical 
critic. His employment in this capacity came about thus. 
In 1871, Laroche, who wrote for the Moscow Viedomosti, 
was offered a post at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, and 
passed on his journalistic work to N. A. Hubert, who, 
partly from ill-health and partly from indolence, neglected 
the duties he had undertaken. Fearing that Katkov, who 
edited the paper, might appoint some amateur as critic, 
and so undo the progress in musical matters which had 
been made during the past years, Tchaikovsky and 
Kashkin came to Hubert's aid and " devilled " for him as 
long as he remained on the staff. Tchaikovsky continued 
to write for the Viedomosti until the winter of 1 876. 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"December 2nd (i^th). 

" I must tell you that at Shilovsky's urgent desire I am 
going abroad for a month. I shall start in about ten days' 
time, but no one except Rubinstein is to know anything 
about it ; everyone is to think I have gone to see our 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" : NiCE, January ist (13^), 1872. 

" I have been a week at Nice. It is most curious to 
come straight from the depths of a Russian winter to a 
climate where one can walk out without an overcoat, 
where orange trees, roses, and syringas are in full bloom, 
and the trees are in leaf. Nice is lovely. But the 
gay life is killing. . . . However, I have many pleasant 
hours ; those, for instance, in the early morning, when I 
sit alone by the sea in the glowing but not scorching 
sunshine. But even these moments are not without a 
shade of melancholy. What comes of it all? I am old, 
and can enjoy nothing more. I live on my memories and 
my hopes. But what is there to hope for ? 

" Yet without hope in the future life is impossible. So 
I dream of coming to Kiev at Easter, and of spending 
part of the summer with you at Kamenka." 


By the end of January Tchaikovsky was back in Moscow. 

In 1871 a great Polytechnic Exhibition was organised 
in this town in celebration of the two hundredth anniver- 
sary of the birth of Peter the Great. The direction of 
the musical section was confided to Nicholas Rubinstein, 
but when he resigned, because his scheme was too costly 
to be sanctioned by the committee, the celebrated 'cellist, 
K. Davidov, was invited to take his place. He accepted, 
and named Laroche and Balakirev as his coadjutors. 
Balakirev was not immediately disposed to undertake 
these duties, saying that he would first like to hear the 
opinion of Nicholas Rubinstein as to the part which the 
Petersburg musicians were to take in the matter. After 
two months of uncertainty, the committee decided to 
dispense with his reply, and invited Rimsky-Korsakov 
to take his place. At the same time Asantchevsky (then 
Director of the Petersburg Conservatoire), Wurm, and 
Leschetitzky were added to the musical committee. 

This originally Muscovite committee, which ended in 
being made up of Petersburgers, decided among other 
projects to commission from Tchaikovsky a Festival Can- 
tata, the text of which was to be specially written for the 
occasion by the poet Polonsky. 

By the end of December, or the beginning of January, 
the libretto was finished. When Tchaikovsky undertook 
to do any work within a fixed limit of time, he always 
tried to complete it before the date of contract expired. 
On this occasion he was well beforehand with the work, 
and sent in the cantata to the committee by the 1st of 
April. As he had only received the words towards the 
end of January, after his return from Nice, he could not 
have had more than two months in which to complete 
this lengthy and complicated score. 

In April he was at work again upon The Oprichnik y and 
must have finished it early in May. 

This, however, is a matter of conjecture, as between 


January 3 1st (February I2th) and May 4th (i6th), there 
does not exist a single one of his letters. 

On May 4th (i6th), 1872, the score of The Oprichnik 
was sent to Napravnik in Petersburg. 

The Festival Cantata was performed on May 3ist 
(June 1 2th) at the opening of the Polytechnic Exhibition, 
and shortly afterwards Tchaikovsky left Moscow for 
Kamenka, where he spent the whole of June. Here he 
began his Second Symphony in C minor. Early in July 
he went to Kiev, and from thence to Kondratiev at Nizy, 
accompanied by his brother Modeste. A part of this 
journey had to be accomplished by diligence. On the 
return journey the two brothers were to travel together 
as far as Voroshba, where Peter Ilich branched off for 
Shilovsky's house at Ussovo, and Modeste went on to 
Kiev. Between Sumy and Voroshba was a post-house, at 
which the horses were generally changed. 

We were in the best of spirits it is Modeste who 
recounts the adventure and partook of a luxurious 
lunch, with wine and liqueurs. These stimulants had a 
considerable effect upon our empty stomachs, so that when 
we were informed of the fact that there were no fresh 
post-horses at our disposal, we lost our tempers and gave 
the overseer a good talking to. Peter Ilich quite lost 
his head, and could not avoid using the customary phrase : 
" Are you aware to whom you are talking ? " The post- 
master was not in the least impressed by this worn-out 
phraseology, and Peter Ilich, beside himself with wrath, 
demanded the report-book. It was brought, and thinking 
that the unknown name of Tchaikovsky would carry no 
weight, Peter Ilich signed his complaint : " Prince Vol- 
konsky, Page-in-Waiting." The result was brilliant. In 
less than a quarter of an hour the horses were harnessed, 
and the head-ostler had been severely reprimanded for not 
having told the post-master that a pair had unexpectedly 
returned from a journey. 


Arrived at Voroshba, Peter Ilich hurried to the ticket- 
office and discovered with horror that he had left his 
pocket-book, containing all his money and papers, at the 
post-station. What was to be done ? He could not catch 
the train, and must therefore wait till the next day. This 
was tiresome ; but far worse was the thought that the 
post-master had only to look inside the pocket-book to see 
Peter Ilich's real name on his passport and visiting-cards. 
While we sat there, feeling crushed, and debating what was 
to be done, my train came in. I was forced to steam off 
to Kiev, after bestowing the greater part of my available 
cash some five or six roubles upon the unhappy pseudo- 

Poor Peter Ilich spent a terrible night at the inn. 
Mice and rats of which he had a mortal terror left him 
no peace. He waged war all night with these pests, which 
ran over his bed and made a hideous noise. The next 
morning came the news that the post-master would not 
entrust the pocket-book to the driver of the post-waggon ; 
Peter Ilich must go back for it himself. This was a worse 
ordeal than even the rats and the sleepless night. ... As 
soon as he arrived he saw at once that the post-master 
had never opened the pocket-book, for his manner was as 
respectful and apologetic as before. Peter Ilich was so 
pleased with this man's strict sense of honour that before 
leaving he inquired his name. Great was his astonishment 
when the post-master replied, " Tchaikovsky " ! At first he 
thought he was the victim of a joke, but afterwards he 
heard from his friend Kondratiev that the man's name was 
actually the same as his own. 

Tchaikovsky spent the rest of the summer at Ussovo, 
where he completed the symphony commenced at Ka- 




Immediately after his return to Moscow, Tchaikovsky 
moved into new quarters, which were far more comfort- 
able than his first habitation. 

We have already seen the motives which first induced 
him to take up journalism. Now he felt it not only a 
matter of honour and duty towards the interests of the 
Conservatoire to continue this work, but found it also a 
welcome means of adding to his income, seeing that he 
lived entirely upon his own resources. His literary efforts 
had been very successful during the past year, and had 
attracted the attention of all who were interested in music. 
Nevertheless his journalistic work, like his lessons at the 
Conservatoire, was burdensome. He told himself " it must 
be done," and did it with the capability that was character- 
istic of him, but without a gleam of enthusiasm or liking 
for the work. His writing was interesting and showed con- 
siderable literary style ; the general character of his articles 
bespoke the cultivated and serious musician, who is dis- 
interested and just, and has a complete insight into his art 
but nothing more. We cannot describe him as a preacher 
of profound convictions, who has power to carry home his 
ideas ; or as a critic capable of describing a work, or a 
composer, in a few delicate or striking words. Reading his 
articles, we seem to be conversing with a clever and gifted 
man, who knows how to express himself clearly ; we sym- 
pathise with him, earnestly wish him success in his cam- 
paign against ignorance and charlatanism, and share his 
desire for the victory of wholesome art over the public 
taste for " the Italians," " American valses," and the rest. 
In these respects we may say that Tchaikovsky's labours 
were not lost. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" Moscow, November 2nd 

" Modi, my conscience pricks me. This is the punish- 
ment for not having written to you for so long. What can 
I do when the symphony, which is nearing completion, 
occupies me so entirely that I can think of nothing else ? 
This work of genius (as Kondratiev calls it) will be per- 
formed as soon as I can get the parts copied. It seems to 
me to be my best work, at least as regards correctness of 
form, a quality for which I have not so far distinguished 
myself. . . . My quartet has created a sensation in Peters- 

To I. A. Klimenko. 

"Moscow, November \$th (27^). 

". . . Since last year nothing particular has happened in 
our lives here. We go to the Conservatoire as formerly, 
and occasionally meet for a general ' boose/ and are just 
as much bored as last year. Boredom consumes us all, 
and the reason is that we are growing old. Yes, it is use- 
less to conceal that every moment brings us nearer to the 
grave. ... 

" As regards myself, I must honestly confess that I have 
but one interest in life : my success as a composer. But it 
is impossible to say that I am much spoilt in this respect. 
For instance, two composers, Famitzin and myself, send 
in our works at the same time. Famitzin is universally 
regarded as devoid of talent, while I, on the contrary, am 
said to be highly gifted. Nevertheless, Sardanapalus is to 
be given almost immediately, whereas so far nothing has 
been settled as to the fate of The Oprichnik. This looks 
as though it were going to fall ' into the water ' * like 
Undine. For a-n Undine to fall into the water is not so 
disastrous ; it is her element. But imagine a drowning 
Oprichnik, how he would battle with the waves ! He 
would certainly perish. But if I went to his rescue I should 
be drowned too ; therefore I have taken my oath never to 
dip pen in ink again if my Oprichnik is refused." 

1 Russian equivalent for "falling through." 



To Ilia Petrovich Tchaikovsky. 

"November 22nd (December $tti). 

" MY DEAR, GOOD FATHER, . . . As regards marriage, 
I must confess that I have often thought of finding myself 
a suitable wife, but I am afraid I might afterwards regret 
doing so. I earn almost enough (3,000 roubles a year), but 
I know so little about the management of money that I am 
always in debt and dilemma. So long as a man is alone, 
this does not much signify. But how would it be if I had 
to keep a wife and family ? 

" My health is good : only one thing troubles me a little 
my eyesight, which is tried by my work. It is so much 
weaker than formerly that I have been obliged to get 
a pair of eyeglasses, which I am told are very becoming 
to me. My nerves are poor, but this cannot be helped, 
and is not of much consequence. Whose nerves are not 
disordered in our generation especially among artists ? " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" December loth (22nd}. 

"You say that Anatol has told you about my depression. 
It is not a question of depression, only now and then 
a kind of misanthropical feeling comes over me which has 
often happened before. It comes partly from my nerves, 
which sometimes get out of gear for no particular reason, 
and partly from the rather uncertain fate of my com- 
positions. The symphony, on which I build great hopes, 
will not be performed apparently before the middle of 
January, at the earliest. 

" Christine Nilsson is having a great triumph here. I 
have seen her twice, and I must own she has made great 
progress as an actress since I heard her for the first time 
in Paris. As regards singing, Nilsson stands alone. When 
she opens her mouth one does not hear anything remark- 
able at first ; then suddenly she takes a high C, or holds 
a sustained note pianissimo, and the whole house thunders 
its applause. But with all her good qualities she does not 
please me nearly so well as Artot. If the latter would 
only return to Moscow I should jump for joy." 


During the Christmas holidays Tchaikovsky was called 
unexpectedly to St. Petersburg to hear the verdict of the 
committee upon his opera, The Oprichnik. The com- 
mittee consisted of the various Capellmeisters of the 
Imperial Theatre and Opera : Napravnik (Russian opera), 
Bevignani (Italian opera), Rybassov (Russian plays), 
Silvain Mangen (French plays), Ed. Betz (German plays), 
and Babkov (ballet). With the exception of Napravnik, 
Tchaikovsky had no great opinion of these men, and 
considered them much inferior to himself as judges of 
music. It seemed to him particularly derogatory to have 
to appear before this Areopagus in person. He did his 
best to avoid this formality, but in vain. 

The meeting which he dreaded so much passed off quite 
satisfactorily. The Oprichnik was unanimously accepted. 

During this visit to St. Petersburg Tchaikovsky was 
frequently in the society of his friends of the " Invincible 
Band " ; and it was evidently under their influence that he 
took a Little Russian folksong as the subject of the Finale 
of the Second Symphony. " At an evening at the Rimsky- 
Korsakovs the whole party nearly tore me to pieces," he 
wrote, " and Madame Korsakov implored me to arrange 
the Finale for four hands." On this same occasion Tchai- 
kovsky begged Vladimir Stassov to suggest a subject for 
a symphonic fantasia. A week had hardly passed before 
Stassov wrote the following letter : 

" December 30^, 1872 (January ntft, 1873). 

" DEAR PETER ILICH, An hour after we had parted at 
the Rimsky-Korsakovs' that is to say, the moment I was 
alone and could collect my thoughts I hit upon the right 
subject for you. I have not written the last three days 
because I had not absolutely made up my mind. Now 
listen, please, to my suggestion. I have not only thought 
of one suitable subject I have three. I began by looking 
at Shakespeare, because you said you would prefer a 


Shakesperean theme. Here I came at once upon the poet- 
ical Tempest, so well adapted for musical illustration, upon 
which Berlioz has already drawn for his fine choruses in 
Lelio. To my mind you might write a splendid over- 
ture on this subject. Every element of it is so full of 
poetry, so grateful. First the Ocean, the Desert Island, 
the striking and rugged figure of the enchanter Prospero, 
and, in contrast, the incarnation of womanly grace 
Miranda, like an Eve who has not as yet looked upon any 
man (save Prospero), and who is charmed and fascinated 
by the first glimpse of the handsome youth Ferdinand, 
thrown ashore during the tempest. They fall in love with 
each other; and here I think you have the material for 
a wonderfully poetical picture. In the first half of the 
overture Miranda awakens gradually from her childish 
innocence to a maidenly love ; in the second half, both 
she and Ferdinand have passed through ' the fires of pas- 
sion ' it is a fine subject. Around these leading characters 
others might be grouped (in the middle section of the 
work) : the monstrous Caliban, the sprite Ariel, with his 
elfin chorus. The close of the overture should describe 
how Prospero renounces his spells, blesses the lovers, and 
returns to his country." 

Besides The Tempest Stassov suggested two alternative 
subjects Scott's Ivanhoe and Gogol's Tarass Boulba. 
Tchaikovsky, however, decided upon the Shakespearean 
subject, and after informing Stassov of his decision, 
received the following letter : 

"January 2ist (February 2tid\ 1873. 

" I now hasten to go into further details, and rejoice in 
the prospect of your work, which should prove a worthy 
pendant to your Romeo and Juliet. You ask whether it is 
necessary to introduce the tempest itself. Most certainly. 
Undoubtedly, most undoubtedly. Without it the overture 
would cease to be an overture ; without it the entire pro- 
gramme would fall through. 

" I have carefully weighed every incident, with all their 
pros and cons, and it would be a pity to upset the whole 


business. I think the sea should be depicted twice at 
the opening and close of the work. In the introduction 
I picture it to myself as calm, until Prospero works his 
spell and the storm begins. But I think this storm should 
be different from all others, in that it breaks out at once 
in all its fury, and does not, as generally happens, work it- 
self up to a climax by degrees. I suggest this original 
treatment because this particular tempest is brought about 
by enchantment and not, as in most operas, oratorios, and 
symphonies, by natural agencies. When the storm has 
abated, when its roaring, screeching, booming and raging 
have subsided, the Enchanted Island appears in all its 
beauty and, still more lovely, the maiden Miranda, who 
flits like a sunbeam over the island. Her conversation 
with Prospero, and immediately afterwards with Ferdinand, 
who fascinates her, and with whom she falls in love. The 
love theme (crescendo) must resemble the expanding and 
blooming of a flower ; Shakespeare has thus depicted her 
at the close of the first act, and I think this would be 
something well suited to your muse. Then I would sug- 
gest the appearance of Caliban, the half-animal slave ; 
and then Ariel, whose motto you may find in Shake- 
speare's lyric (at the end of the first act), ' Come unto these 
yellow sands.' After Ariel, Ferdinand and Miranda should 
reappear ; this time in a phase of glowing passion. Then 
the imposing figure of Prospero, who relinquishes his 
magic arts and takes farewell of his past ; and finally the 
sea, calm and peaceful, which washes the shores of the 
desert island, while the happy inhabitants are borne away 
in a ship to distant Italy. 

" As I have planned all this in the order described, it 
seems to me impossible to leave out the sea in the opening 
and close of the work, and to call the overture " Miranda." 
In your first overture you have unfortunately omitted all 
reference to Juliet's nurse, that inspired Shakespearean 
creation, and also the picture of dawn, on which the love- 
scene is built up. Your overture is beautiful, but it might 
have been still more so. And now, please note that I 
want your new work to be wider, deeper, more mature. 
That it will have beauty and passion, I think I am safe in 
predicting. So I wish you all luck and vogue la galere ! " 


To V. Stassov. 
"January 27 th (February 8M), 1873. 

know how to thank you for your excellent, and at the same 
time most attractive, programme. Whether I shall be suc- 
cessful I cannot say, but in any case I intend to carry out 
every detail of your plan. I must warn you, however, that 
my overture will not see the light for some time to come : 
at least, I have no intention of hurrying over it. A number 
of tiresome, prosaic occupations, among them the piano- 
forte arrangement of my opera, will, in the immediate 
future, take up the quiet time I should need for so delicate 
a work. The subject of The Tempest is so poetical, its 
programme demands such perfection and beauty of work- 
manship, that I am resolved to suppress my impatience 
and await a more favourable moment for its commence- 

" My symphony was performed yesterday, and met with 
great success ; so great in fact that N. Rubinstein is re- 
peating it at the tenth concert ' by general request.' To 
confess the truth, I am not altogether satisfied with the 
first two movements, but the finale on The Crane 1 theme 
has turned out admirably. I will speak to Rubinstein 
about sending the score ; I must find out the date of the 
tenth concert. I should like to make a few improvements 
in the orchestration, and I must consider how long this will 
take, and whether it will be better to send the score to 
Nadejda Nicholaevna, 2 or to wait until after the concert. 

" Laroche paid me the compliment of coming to Moscow 
on purpose to hear my symphony. He left to-day." 

The Second Symphony appeared in the programme of 
the Musical Society's concert of January 6th (i8th), 1873, 
and was very well received. Laroche spoke very appreci- 
atively of the new work. 

1 A Little Russian folksong. 

2 Madame Rimsky-Korsakov, who was going to make the pianoforte 
arrangement of the symphony for four hands. 


The symphony was repeated at the tenth concert, when 
the composer was recalled after each movement and pre- 
sented with a laurel-wreath and a silver goblet. 

To his father, I. P. Tchaikovsky. 

"February 5^(17^). 

" Time flies, for I am very busy. I am working at the 
pianoforte arrangement of my opera (The Oprichnik), 
writing musical articles, and contributing a biography of 
Beethoven to The Grajdanin. 1 I spend all my evenings at 
home, and lead the life of a peaceable and well-disposed 
citizen of Moscow. At last a very cold winter has set in. 
To-day the frost is so intense that the noses of the Musco- 
vites risk becoming swollen and frost-bitten. But as I keep 
indoors, I am very snug and warm in my rooms." 

To the same. 

April l*h(\$th). 

" For nearly a whole month have I been sitting diligently 
at work. I am writing music to Ostrovsky's fairy tale, 
Sniegourotchka (* Little Snow White '), and consequently 
my correspondence has been somewhat neglected. In 
addition to this, I cut my hand so severely the day before 
yesterday that it was two hours before the doctor could 
stop the bleeding and apply a bandage. Consequently I 
can only write with difficulty, so do not be surprised, my 
angel, at my writing so seldom." 

To the same. 

"May ztfh (June 5^). 

" I have been feverishly busy lately with the preparations 
for the first performance of Sniegourotchka, the pianoforte 
arrangement of my symphony, the examinations at the 
Conservatoire, the reception of the Grand Duke Con- 
stantine Nicholaevich, etc. The latter was enthusiastic 
over my symphony, and paid me many compliments." 

1 Only the opening chapters of this work appeared. 


I have already said that life was precious to Tchaikovsky. 
This was noticeable in many ways, among others his 
passion for keeping a diary. Every day had its great 
value for him, and the thought that he must bid eternal 
farewell to it, and lose all trace of its experiences, depressed 
him exceedingly. It was a consolation to save something 
from the limbo of forgetfulness, so that in time to come he 
might recall to mind the events through which he had 
lived. In old age he believed it would be a great plea- 
sure to reconstruct the joys of the past from these short 
sketches and fragmentary jottings which no one else would 
be able to understand. He preferred the system of brief 
and imperfect notes, because in reading through the diaries 
of his childhood and youth, in which he had gone more 
fully into his thoughts and emotions, he had felt somewhat 
ashamed. The sentiments and ideas which he found so 
interesting, and which once seemed to him so great and 
important, now appeared empty, unmeaning and ridiculous, 
and he resolved in future only to commit facts to paper, 
without any commentary. 1 Disillusioned by their contents, 
he destroyed all his early diaries. About the close of the 
seventies Tchaikovsky started a new diary, which he kept 
for about ten years. He never showed it to anyone, and I 
had to give him my word of honour to burn it after his 
death. After all, he did so himself, and only spared what 
might be seen by strangers. 

His first attempt at a diary dates from 1873. He began 
it in expectation of many impressions during his tour 
abroad, the very day he left Nizy. 

1 Many of the entries in Tchaikovsky's diaries are so devoid of character- 
istic interest that I have thought fit to curtail the number of quotations in 
this volume, selecting only those which had some reference to his work or his 
views of life. R. N. 

1 4 o 


Extracts from the diary kept during the summer 



" Yesterday, on the road from Voroshba to Kiev, music 
came singing and echoing through my head after a long 
interval of silence. A theme in embryo, in B major, took 
possession of my mind and almost led me on to attempt a 
symphony. Suddenly the thought came over me to cast 
aside Stassov's not too successful Tempest and devote the 
summer to composing a symphony which should throw 
all my previous works into the shade. Here is the 
embryo : 

" On the road to . . . 

" What is more wearisome than a railway journey and 
tiresome companions? An Italian, an indescribable fool, 
has tacked himself on to me, and I hardly know how to 
get rid of him. He does not even know where he is going, 
nor where to change his money. I changed mine at a 
Jew's in Cracow. What a bore it all is ! Sometimes I 
think of Sasha and Modi, and my heart is fit to break. At 
Volochisk great agitation, and my nerves upset. With the 
exception of the Italian, my fellow-travellers are bearable. 
I scarcely slept all night. The old man is a retired officer 
with the old, original whiskers. At the present moment 
the Italian is boring a lady. Lord, what an ass ! I must 
get rid of him by some kind of dodge." 



11 June 2gth (July nth). 

" I had four long hours to wait in Myslovitz ; at last 
I am on the road to Breslau. The Italian is enchanted to 
think I shall travel with him to Liggia. He bores me 
to extinction. Oh, what an idiot ! At Myslovitz I had an 
indifferent meal, and afterwards went for a walk through 
the pretty town. I can imagine my Italian's face, and 
what he will say, when I suddenly vanish at Breslau ! He 
will be left sitting there ! My money goes like water ! " 


"After all I had not the heart to deceive my Italian. 
I told him beforehand I intended to stop in Breslau. He 
almost dissolved into tears, and gave me his name, which I 
have put down above." 

"3 a.m. 

" How I love solitude sometimes ! I must confess I am 
only staying here in order to put off my arrival in Dresden 
and the society of the Jurgensons. To sit like this 
alone, to be silent, and to think ! . . ." 

" Not far from Dresden. 

" Theme for the first allegro, introduction from the same, 
but in 4/4 time." 




" I arrived here yesterday at six o'clock. As soon as 
I had secured a room I hurried to the theatre. Die Jiidin 
(The Jewess) was being played very fine. My nerves are 
terrible. Without waiting for the end, I went to find the 
Jurgensons at the hotel. Supper. Took tea with the 
Jurgensons. To-day I took a bath. Sauntered about 
the town with Jurgenson. Midday dinner at the table 
d'hote. Very shortly we start for Saxon Switzerland. My 
frame of mind is not unbearable." 


"The weather has broken up, and we have decided to 
turn back from our trip. We made the descent from the 
Bastei by another road between colossal rocks. We halted 
at a restaurant in the midst of the most sublime scenery. 
Breakfasted on the banks of the Elbe (omelette aux con- 
fitures} and returned to Dresden by boat. Our rooms were 
no longer to be had, and they have given me a wretched 

Throughout the whole of his tour through Switzerland 
we find similar brief entries, recording very little beyond 
the state of the weather, the names of the hotels at 
which they stayed, and the quality of the meals pro- 

At Cadenabbia (Como) the diary comes to an end with 
the following entry : 

"The journey (from Milan) was not long, and it was 
very pleasant on the steamer. We are staying at the 
lovely Hotel Bellevue." 

After Tchaikovsky's return to Russia, early in August, 
he went straight to his favourite summer resort Ussovo. 
The fortnight which he spent there in complete solitude 


seemed to Tchaikovsky, in after days, one of the happiest 
periods in his existence. Life abroad, under similar cir- 
cumstances, he found painful and unbearable, whereas in 
his own country the presence even of a servant sufficed to 
spoil his solitude, and the sense of increased energy and 
strength, which always came to him in the lonely life of 
the country, was unknown in the bustle and stress of the 
city. In a letter written in 1878 he recalls this visit to 
Ussovo in the following words : 

To N. F. M. (von Meek}. 

"April 22nd (March tfh\ 1878. 

" I know no greater happiness than to spend a few days 
quite alone in the country. I have only experienced this 
delight once in my life. This was in 1873. I came 
straight from Paris it was early in August to stay with 
a bachelor friend in the country, in the Government of 
Tambov. My friend, however, was obliged to go to 
Moscow for a few days, so I was left all alone in that 
lovely oasis amid the steppes of South Russia. I was in 
a highly strung, emotional mood ; wandered for whole 
days together in the forest, spent the evenings on the low- 
lying steppe, and at night, sitting at my open window, I 
listened to the solemn stillness, which was only broken at 
rare intervals by some vague, indefinable sound. During 
this fortnight, without the least effort just as though I 
were under the influence of some supernatural force I 
sketched out the whole of The Tempest overture. What 
an unpleasant and tiresome awakening from my dreams I 
experienced on my friend's return ! All the delights of 
direct intercourse with the sublimities and indescribable 
beauties of nature vanished in a trice ! My corner of 
Paradise was transformed into the prosaic house of a well- 
to-do country gentleman. After two or three days of 
boredom I went back to Moscow." 

Tchaikovsky went to Ussovo about the 5th or 6th of 
August, and by the 7th (iQth) had already set to work 


upon The Tempest. By August i;th (2Qth) this sym- 
phonic poem was completely sketched out in all its details, 
so that the composer could go straight on with the orches- 
tration on his return to Moscow. The Countess Vassilieva- 
Shilovsky made me a present of this manuscript, upon 
which are inscribed the dates I have just mentioned. At 
the present time the manuscript is in the Imperial Public 
Library, St. Petersburg. 



As soon as Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow, on 
September ist, he set to work upon the orchestration of 
The Tempest. 

In the second half of the month he moved into new 
quarters in the Nikitskaya (House Vishnevsky). 

Nothing particularly eventful had happened since last 
year, either in his career as professor or musical critic. 
His daily life ran in the same grooves as before, with this 
difference only : the things which once seemed to him new 
and interesting now appeared more and more wearisome 
and unprofitable, and his moods of depression became more 
frequent, more intense, and of longer duration. 

To V. Bessel. 

"September, 1873. 

" Be so kind as to do something for The Oprichnik. 
Yesterday they told me at the Opera House that the 
Direction had quite decided to produce it in Moscow 
during the spring. Although, with the exception of 
Kadmina, I have no strong forces to reckon upon here, 
yet I think we had better not raise any objections. Let 


them do it if they like. The repttiteur has assured me 
that no expense shall be spared in mounting the opera 
brilliantly. The rehearsals will be carried on throughout 
the season. As regards The Oprichnik, I think it would 
be best to dedicate it to the Grand Duke Constantine 

To the same. 

"October loth (22nd). 

" DEAR FRIEND, I have written to Gedeonov and told 
him that you are my representative as regards everything 
pertaining to the production of The Oprichnik. As to the 
pianoforte arrangement, you must wait patiently for a little 
while. When you meet Stassov, please tell him I have 
quite finished The Tempest, according to his programme, 
but I shall not send him the work until I have heard it 
performed in Moscow." 

To the same. 

" October i8M (30^). 

" DEAR FRIEND, Although I expected your bad news, 
I cannot conceal the fact that I am very much annoyed by 
it. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that I shall never 
hear a good performance of one of my operas. It is useless 
for you to hope that The Oprichnik will be mounted next 
year. It will never be given at all, for the simple reason 
that I am not personally known to any of the 'great 
people ' of the world in general, or to those of the Peters- 
burg Opera in particular. Is it not ridiculous that Mous- 
sorgsky's Boris Godounov, although refused by the Com- 
mittee, should have been chosen by Kondratiev 1 for his 
benefit ? Madame Platonova, too, interests herself in this 
work, while no one wants to hear anything about mine, 
which has been accepted by the authorities. It goes 
without saying that I will not consent to have the opera 
performed in Moscow unless it is produced in Petersburg 
too. My conscience pricks me that the work will involve 

1 G. Kondratiev, baritone singer, and afterwards manager of the Mary- 
insky Theatre. 


you in some expense, but I hope I may have some oppor- 
tunity of compensating you. 

" As to the dedication to the Grand Duke, would it not 
look strange to dedicate it to him now that the fate of the 
work is so uncertain ? An unperformed opera seems to me 
like a book in manuscript. Would it not be better to 
wait? I am impatiently expecting the corrections of the 

To the same. 

" October y>th (November nth). 

" DEAR FRIEND, Hubert has given me the good news 
that luck has turned for the opera. I am so glad ! Keep 
it a complete secret that I want to be in Petersburg for the 
first symphony concert, in order to hear my symphony. 
. . . Let me know the date and secure me a ticket for the 
gallery. But not a word, for Heaven's sake, or my little 
joke will be turned into something quite unpleasant." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"November i%th (December io/V&). 

"... My pecuniary situation will shortly be improved. 
The Tempest is to be performed next week, when I shall 
receive the customary 300 roubles from the Musical Society. 
This sum will put me in good heart again. I am very 
curious to hear my new work, from which I hope so much. 
It is a pity you cannot hear it too, for I think a great deal 
of your wise opinion. 

"This year, for the first time, I have begun to realise 
that I am rather lonely here, in spite of many friends. 
There is no one to whom I can open my heart like 
Kondratiev, for instance." 

At the third concert of the Moscow Musical Society 
The Tempest was given with great success, and repeated 
during the same season at an extra concert. 


From E. Napravnik to Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. 

"December i6th (28^). 

" Although we shall probably not begin the rehearsals 
of your opera before the second week in Lent, may I ask 
you to lighten the work somewhat for the soloists and 
chorus by making a few cuts, i.e. all those repetitions in 
words and music which are not essential to the development 
of the drama ? I assure you the work will only gain by it. 
Besides this, I advise you to alter the orchestration, which 
is too heavy, and over-brilliant in places ; it overwhelms 
the singers and puts them completely in the shade. I hope 
you will take my remarks in good part, as coming from 
one who for eleven years has been exclusively occupied 
with operatic art." 

To E. Napravnik. + i 

"December i%th (30^). 

" HONOURED SIR, Your remarks have not hurt my 
feelings: on the contrary, I am much obliged to you. 
Above all I am glad that your letter has given me the 
opportunity of making your acquaintance, and talking 
things over personally with you. I will do everything 
you think necessary as regards the distribution of the 
parts, the shortening of the scenes, and the changes 
in the orchestration. In order to discuss things in detail, 
I will go to Petersburg next Sunday and call upon you. . . . 
Pray do not mention my coming to anyone, as my visit 
will be short, and I do not want to see anyone but your- 

To A. Tchaikovsky. 

"January 26th (February >]th), 1874. 

" The difficulties with the Censor are happily settled ; in 
fact, I am at peace as regards the opera, and convinced 
that Napravnik will take the greatest pains with it. I have 
written a new quartet, and it is to be played at a soirte 
given by Nicholas Rubinstein." 


The new quartet mentioned in this letter was begun 
about the end of December, or beginning of January. In 
his reminiscences, Kashkin gives the following account 
of its first performance at N. Rubinstein's : 

"Early in 1874 the Second Quartet (F major) was 
played at a musical evening at Nicholas Rubinstein's. 
I believe the host himself was not present, but his brother 
Anton was there. The executants were Laub, Grijimal, 
and Gerber. All the time the music was going on 
Rubinstein listened with a lowering, discontented ex- 
pression, and, at the end, declared with his customary 
brutal frankness that it was not at all in the style of 
chamber music ; that he himself could not understand the 
work, etc. The rest of the audience, as well as the players, 
were charmed with it." 

On March loth (22nd) the Quartet was played at one of 
the Musical Society's chamber concerts, and according to 
The Musical Leaflet, had a well-deserved success. 

On February 25th (March Qth), the Second Symphony 
was performed for the first time in Petersburg, under 
Napravnik's direction. It was greatly applauded, especially 
the finale ; but, in the absence of the composer, its success 
was not so remarkable, nor so brilliant, as it had been 
a year earlier in Moscow. The symphony won the ap- 
proval of the " Invincible Band," with the exception of 
Caesar Cui, who expressed himself in the St. Petersburg 
Viedomosti as follows : 

" The Introduction and first Allegro are very weak ; the 
poverty of Tchaikovsky's invention displays itself every 
moment. The March in the second movement is rough 
and commonplace. The Scherzo is neither good nor bad ; 
the trio is so innocent that it would be almost too infantile 
for a ' Sniegourotchka.' The best movement is the Finale, 
and even then the opening is as pompously trivial as 
the introduction to a pas de deux, and the end is beneath all 


Towards the end of March, Tchaikovsky went to St. 
Petersburg to attend the rehearsals of The Oprichnik, and 
took up his abode with his father. During his first inter- 
views with Napravnik his pride suffered many blows to 
which he was not accustomed. Somewhat spoilt by 
Nicholas Rubinstein's flattering attitude towards every 
note of his recent orchestral works, he was rather hurt by 
the number of cuts Napravnik considered it necessary to 
make in the score of his opera. Afterwards he approved of 
them all, but at the moment he felt affronted. 

From the very first rehearsal Tchaikovsky was dis- 
satisfied with his work. On March 2$th he wrote to 
Albrecht : 

" Kindly inform all my friends that the first performance 
takes place on Friday in Easter week, and let me know in 
good time whether they intend to come and hear it, so that 
I may secure tickets for them. Frankly speaking, I would 
rather none of you came. There is nothing really fine in 
the work" 

To his pupil, Serge Taneiev, he writes in the same 
strain : 

" Serioja, 1 if you really seriously intend to come here on 
purpose to hear my opera, I implore you to abandon the 
idea, for there is nothing good in it, and it would be a pity 
if you travelled to Petersburg on that account." 

The more the opera was studied, the gloomier grew Tchai- 
kovsky's mood. One day, unsuspicious of the true reason 
of his depression, I ventured to criticise The Oprichnik 
rather severely, and made fun of the scene in which 
Andrew appears in Jemchoujny's garden, merely to "draw" 
him for some money. My brother lost his temper and flew 
out at me fiercely. I was almost reduced to tears, for at 
the time I could not guess the real reason for his anger. 

1 Diminutive of Serge. 


It was not until long after that I realised my criticism had 
wounded his artistic feelings in the most sensitive spot. 

Against Tchaikovsky's wish, almost the entire teaching 
staff of the Moscow Conservatoire, with N. Rubinstein 
at their head, appeared in Petersburg for the first night of 
The Oprichnik, April I2th (24th), 1874. 

Although none of the singers were remarkable, yet no 
individual artist marred the ensemble. The chorus and 
orchestra were the best part of it. The performance ran 
smoothly. The scenery and costumes were rather old, for 
the authorities did not care to risk the expense of a very 
luxurious setting for a new work by a composer whose 
name was not as yet a guarantee for a brilliant success. 

On the face of it, the work seemed to have a great 
success. After the second act the composer was unani- 
mously called before the curtain. The public seemed to 
be in that enthusiastic mood which is the true criterion of 
the success of a work. 

In a box on the second tier sat the composer's old 
father with his family. He beamed with happiness. But 
when I asked him which he thought best for Peter, this 
artistic success or the Empress Anne's Order, which he 
might have gained as an official, he replied : " The decora- 
tion would certainly have been better." This answer 
shows that in his heart of hearts he still regretted that his 
son had ceased to be an official. Not that this feeling 
sprang from petty ambition, or from any other prosaic or 
egotistical reason, but because he believed that the life of 
the ordinary man is safer and happier than that of the 

After the performance the directors of the Moscow and 
Petersburg sections of the Russian Musical Society gave 
a supper in honour of Tchaikovsky at the Restaurant 

In the course of the evening, Asantchevsky, then 
principal of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, delivered 



an address, in which he informed the composer in flatter- 
ing terms that the directors of the Petersburg section of 
the Musical Society had decided to award him the sum 
of 300 roubles, being a portion of the Kondratiev Bequest 
for the benefit of Russian composers. 

The Press notices of The Oprichnik were as contradic- 
tory as they were numerous. The opinions of Caesar 
Cui and Laroche represented as usual the two opposite 
poles of criticism. The former declared that while 

" the text might have been the work of a schoolboy, the 
music is equally immature and undeveloped. Poor in 
conception, and feeble throughout, it is such as might 
have been expected from a beginner, but not from a 
composer who has already covered so many sheets of 
paper. Tchaikovsky's creative talents, which are occasion- 
ally apparent in his symphonic works, are completely 
lacking in The Oprichnik. The choruses are rather better 
than the rest, but this is only because of the folksong 
element which forms their thematic material. . . . Not 
only will The Oprichnik not bear comparison with other 
operas of the Russian school, such as Boris Godounov? for 
instance, but it is even inferior to examples of Italian 

In these words Cui apparently believed he had given 
the death-blow to the composer of The Oprichnik. 

Laroche's view (in The Musical Leaflet) is quite opposed 
to that of Caesar Cui. He says : 

" While our modern composers of opera contend with 
each other in their negation of music, Tchaikovsky's opera 
does not bear the stamp of this doubtful progress, but 
shows the work of a gifted temperament. The wealth of 
musical beauties in The Oprichnik is so great that this opera 
takes a significant place not only among Tchaikovsky's 
own works, but among all the examples of Russian 
dramatic music. When to this rare melodic gift we add 
a fine harmonic style, the wonderful, free, and often daring 

1 By Moussorgsky. 


progression of the parts, the genuinely Russian art of 
inventing chromatic harmonies for diatonic melodies, the 
frequent employment of pedal-points (which the composer 
uses almost too freely), the skilful manner in which he 
unites the various scenes into an organic whole, and finally 
the sonorous and brilliant orchestration, we have a score 
which displays many of the best features of modern 
operatic music, while at the same time it is free from most 
of the worst faults of contemporary composition." 

The most harsh and pitiless of critics, however, was the 
composer himself, who wrote a fortnight after the first 
performance as follows : 

" The Oprichnik torments me. This opera is so bad 
that I always ran away from the rehearsals (especially of 
Acts iii. and iv.) to avoid hearing another note. ... It 
has neither action, style, nor inspiration. I am sure it will 
not survive half a dozen performances, which is mortally 

This prediction was not fulfilled, for by March 1st (i3th), 
1 88 1, The Oprichnik was given fourteen times. This does 
not amount to a great deal ; but when we remember that 
not a single new opera of the Russian school Boris 
Godounov^ The Stone Guest, William Ratcliff, Angela 
had exceeded sixteen performances, and many had only 
reached eight, we must admit that The Oprichnik had 
more than the average success. 

The third day after the performance of his opera 
Tchaikovsky started for Italy. Besides wishing to rest 
after the excitement of the last few days, he went as 
correspondent for the Russky Viedomosti to attend the first 
performance in Italy of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar. The 
opera was translated into Italian by Madame Santagano- 
Gortshakov and, thanks to her initiative, was brought out 
at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan. 

1 Boris GodounoV) Moussorgsky ; The Stone Guest t Dargomijsky ; Ratcliff 
and Angela, Caesar Cui. 


To M. Tchaikovsky. 

"VENICE, April \^th (29^), 1874. 

"All day long I have been walking up and down the 
Piazza San Marco. . . . My soul was very downcast. Why? 
For many reasons, one of which is that I am ashamed of 
myself. Instead of going abroad and spending money, I 
ought really to have paid your debts and Anatol's and 
yet I am hurrying off to enjoy the beautiful South. The 
thought of my wrong-doing and selfishness has so tor- 
mented me that only now, in putting my feelings on paper, 
does my conscience begin to feel somewhat lighter. So 
forgive me, dear Modi, for loving myself better than you 
and the rest of mankind. 

" Perhaps you will think I am posing as a benefactor. 
Not in the least. I know my egotism is limitless, or I 
should not have gone off on my trip while you had to 
remain at home. . . . Now I will tell you about Venice. 
It is a place in which had I to remain for long I should 
hang myself on the fifth day from sheer despair. The 
entire life of the place centres in the Piazza San Marco. 
To venture further in any direction is to find yourself in a 
labyrinth of stinking corridors which end in some cul-de-sac, 
so that you have no idea where you are, or where to go, 
unless you are in a gondola. A trip through the Canale 
Grande is well worth making, for one passes marble palaces, 
each one more beautiful and more dilapidated than the 
last. In fact, you might suppose yourself to be gazing 
upon the ruined scenery in the first act of Lucrezia. But 
the Doge's Palace is beauty and elegance itself; and then 
the romantic atmosphere of the Council of Ten, the Inqui- 
sition, the torture chambers, and other fascinating things. 
I have thoroughly ' done ' this palace within and without, 
and dutifully visited two others, and also three churches, in 
which were many pictures by Titian and Tintoretto, statues 
by Canova, and other treasures. Venice, however I repeat 
it is very gloomy, and like a dead city. There are no 
horses here, and I have not even come across a dog. 

" I have just received a telegram from Milan. A Life 
for the Tsar will not be performed before May 1 2th (new 
style), so I have decided to leave to-morrow for Rome, and 


afterwards go on to Naples, where I shall expect to find a 
letter from you." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" ROME, April zoth (May 2tid\ 1874. 

" DEAR TOLY, . . . Solitude is a very good thing, and 
I like it in moderation. To-day is the eighth day since I 
left Russia, and during the whole of this time I have not 
exchanged a friendly word with anyone. Except the 
hotel servants and railway officials, no human being has 
heard a word from my lips. I saunter through the city all 
the morning and have certainly seen most glorious things : 
the Colosseum, the Capitol, the Vatican, the Pantheon, and, 
finally the loftiest triumph of human genius St. Peter's. 
Since the midday meal I have been to the Corso, but here 
I was overcome by such 'spleen' that I am striving to shake 
it off by writing letters and drinking tea. . . . Except for 
certain historical and artistic sights, Rome itself, with its 
narrow streets, is not interesting, and I cannot understand 
spending one's whole life here, as many Russians do. I 
have sufficient funds to travel all over Italy. As regards 
money, from the moment I left Russia I have not ceased 
to reproach myself for my unfeeling egotism. If you only 
knew how my conscience has pricked me ! But I had made 
up my mind to travel through Italy. It is too foolish ; if 
I had wanted distraction I might just as well have gone to 
Kiev or the Crimea it would have been cheap and as good. 
Dear Toly, I embrace you heartily. What would I give to 
see you suddenly appear on the scene ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
"FLORENCE, April *>]th (May qth), 1874. 

" You are thinking : ' Lucky fellow, first he writes from 
Venice and then from Florence.' Yet all the while, Modi, 
you cannot imagine anyone who suffers more than I do. 
At Naples it came to such a pass that every day I shed 
tears from sheer home-sickness and longing for my dear 
folk. . . . But the chief ground of all my misery is The 
Oprichnik. Finally, the same terrible weather has followed 


me here. The Italians cannot remember a similar spring. 
At Naples, where I spent six days, I saw nothing, because 
in bad weather the town is impassable. The last two days 
it was impossible to go out. I fled post-haste, and shall go 
straight to Sasha 1 without stopping at Milan. I have very 
good grounds for avoiding Milan, for I hear from a certain 
Stchurovsky that the performance of A Life for the Tsar 
will be bungled. ... In Florence I only had time to go 
through the principal streets, which pleased me very much. 
I hate Rome, and Naples too ; the devil take them both ! 
There is only one town in the world for me Moscow, and 
perhaps I might add Paris." 

Without waiting for the performance of A Life for the 
Tsar at Milan, which did not take place until May 8th 
(2Oth), Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow early in this 

For a short time his dissatisfaction with The Oprichnik 
filled him with such doubt of his powers that his spirits 
flagged. But his energy quickly recovered itself. No 
sooner had he returned to Moscow, than he was possessed 
by an intense desire to prove to himself and others that he 
was equal to better things than The Oprichnik. The score 
of this work seemed like a sin, for which he must make 
reparation at all costs. There was but one way of atone- 
ment to compose a new opera which should have no 
resemblance to The Oprichnik, and should wipe out the 
memory of that unhappy work. 

In the course of this season, the Russian Musical Society 
organised a prize competition for the best setting of the 
opera, Vakoula the Smith. 

While Serov was still engaged upon his opera, The Power 
of the Evil One, he was suddenly seized with a desire to 
compose a Russian comic opera, and chose a fantastic poem 
by Gogol. When he informed his patroness, the Grand 
Duchess Helena Pavlovna, of his project, she declared herself 

1 His sister, Madame Davidov. 


willing to have a libretto prepared by the poet Polonsky at 
her own cost. Serov died before he had time to begin the 
opera, and the Grand Duchess resolved to honour his 
memory by offering two prizes for the best setting of the 
libretto he had been unable to use. In January, 1873, the 
Grand Duchess Helena died, and the directors of the Im- 
perial Musical Society proceeded to carry out her wishes 
with regard to the libretto of Vakoula the Smith. 

The latest date at which the competitors might send in 
their scores to the jury was fixed for August 1st (i3th) 
1875. The successful opera was afterwards to be per- 
formed at the Imperial Opera House in Petersburg. 

At first Tchaikovsky hesitated to take part in the com- 
petition, lest he should be unsuccessful. But having read 
Polonsky's libretto, he was fascinated. The originality 
and captivating local colour, as well as the really poetical 
lyrics with which the book is interspersed, commended 
it to Tchaikovsky's imagination, so that he could no longer 
resist the impulse to set it to music. At the same time he 
feared the competition, not so much because he desired 
the prize, as because, in the event of failure, he could not 
hope to see his version of the libretto produced at the 
Imperial Opera. This was his actual motive in trying to 
discover, before finally deciding the matter, whether Anton 
Rubinstein, Balakirev, or Rimsky-Korsakov were intending 
to compete. As soon as he had ascertained that these 
rivals were not going to meet him in the field, he threw 
himself into the task with ardour. 

At the beginning of the summer vacation Tchaikovsky 
went to stay with Kondratiev at Nizy, and set to work 
without loss of time. He was under the misapprehension 
that the score had to be ready by August 1st of that year 
(1874), besides which he felt a burning desire to wipe out 
the memory of The Oprichnik as soon as possible. By 
the middle of July, when he left Nizy for Ussovo, he had 
all but finished the sketch of the opera, and was ready to 


begin the orchestration. At Ussovo he redoubled his 
efforts, and the work was actually completed by the end 
of August. The entire opera had occupied him barely 
three months. He wrote no other dramatic work under 
such a long and unbroken spell of inspiration. To the 
end of his days Tchaikovsky had a great weakness for 
this particular opera. In 1885 he made some not very 
important changes in the score. It has been twice re- 
named ; once as Cherevichek (" The Little Shoes "), and 
later as Les Caprices d'Oxane, under which title it now 
appears in foreign editions. 

During this season Tchaikovsky's reputation greatly 
increased. The success of his Second Symphony, and the 
performance of The Oprichnik, made his name as well 
known in Petersburg as it had now become in Moscow. 

In his account of the first performance of A Life for 
the Tsar, at Milan, Hans von Biilow, referring to Tchai- 
kovsky, says : l 

" At the present moment we know but one other who, 
like Glinka, strives and aspires, and whose works 
although they have not yet attained to full maturity 
give the complete assurance that such maturity will not 
fail to come. I refer to the young professor of composi- 
tion at the Moscow Conservatoire Tchaikovsky. A 
beautiful string quartet by him has won its way in many 
German towns. Many of his works deserve equal recogni- 
tion his pianoforte compositions, two symphonies, and 
an uncommonly interesting overture to Romeo and Juliet, 
which commends itself by its originality and luxuriant 
flow of melody. Thanks to his many-sidedness, this 
composer will not run the danger of being neglected 
abroad, as was the case with Glinka." 

1 Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 148 (1874), " Musikalisches aus Italian." 




It was not until his return to Moscow that Tchaikovsky 
found out his mistake as to the date of the competition. 
This discovery annoyed him exceedingly. Like all com- 
posers, he burned with impatience to hear his work per- 
formed as soon as possible. In his case such impatience 
was all the greater, because he was not accustomed to 
delay; hitherto Nicholas Rubinstein had brought out his 
works almost before the ink was dry on the paper. Besides 
which Tchaikovsky had never before been so pleased 
with any offspring of his genius as with this new opera. 
The desire to see Vakoula mounted, and thus to wipe out 
the bad impression left by The Oprichnik, became almost 
a fixed idea, and led him to a course of action which in 
calmer moments would have seemed to him reprehensible. 

Tchaikovsky never had the art of keeping a secret, 
especially when it was a question of the rehabilitation of his 
artistic reputation, such as it seemed to him at present, for 
he believed it to have been damaged by " the detestable 
Oprichnik" Consequently he never took the least trouble 
to conceal the fact that he was taking part in this competi- 
tion. For a man of his age he showed an inconceivable 
degree of naivett, and went so far as to try to induce the 
directors of the Opera in Petersburg to have Vakoula per- 
formed before the result of the competition was decided. 
From the letter which I give below, it is easy to see how 
little he thought at the moment of the injustice he was 
inflicting upon the other competitors, and how imperfectly 
he realised the importance of silence in such an affair as 
a competition, in which anonymity is the first condition 
of impartial judgment. 


To E. Napravnik. 

' ' October 19^(31^), 1874. 

" I have learnt to-day that you and the Grand Duke are 
much displeased at my efforts to get my opera performed 
independently of the decision of the jury. I very much 
regret that my strictly private communication to you and 
Kondratiev should have been brought before the notice of 
the Grand Duke, who may now think I am unwilling to 
submit to the terms of the competition. The matter can 
be very simply explained. I had erroneously supposed 
that August ist (i3th), 1874, was the last day upon which 
the compositions could be sent in to the jury, and I 
hurried over the completion of my work. Only on my 
return to Moscow did I discover 'my mistake, and that 
I must wait more than a year for the decision of the 
judges. In my impatience to have my work performed 
(which is far more to me than any money) I inquired, 
in reply to a letter of Kondratiev's whether it might 
not be possible to get my work brought out independently 
of the prize competition. I asked him to talk it over with 
you and give me a reply. Now I see that I have made 
a stupid mistake, because I have no rights over the libretto 
of the opera. You need only have told Kondratiev to 
write and say I was a fool, instead of imputing to me some 
ulterior motive which I have never had. I beg you to put 
aside all such suspicions, and to reassure the Grand Duke, 
who is very much annoyed, so Rubinstein tells me. 

" Let me express my thanks for having included The 
Tempest in your repertory. I must take this opportunity 
of setting right a little mistake in the instrumentation. 
I noticed in the introduction, where all the strings are 
divided into three, and each part has its own rhythm, that 
the first violins sounded too loud first, because they are 
more powerful than the others, and secondly, because they 
are playing higher notes. As it is desirable that no dis- 
tinct rhythm should be heard in these particular passages, 
please be so kind as to make the first violins play/// and 
the others simply /." 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky, 

" October 2<)th (November ioth}. 

"Just imagine, Modi, that up to the present moment 
I am still slaving at the pianoforte arrangement of my 
opera. ... I have no time for answering all my letters. 
Many thanks for both yours ; I am delighted to find that 
you write with the elegance of a Sevigne. Joking apart, 
you have a literary vein, and I should be very glad if 
it proved strong enough to make an author of you. Then, 
at last, I might obtain a good libretto, for it seems a hope- 
less business ; one seeks and seeks, and finds nothing 
suitable. Berg, the poet, (editor of the Grajdanin, the 
Niva, and other Russian publications), suggested to me 
a subject from the period of the Hussites and Taborites. 
I inquired if he had any decided plan. Not in the least ; 
he liked the idea of their singing hymns ! ! ! I would give 
anything just now to get a good historical libretto not 

" . . . I sit at home a good deal, but unfortunately I do 
not get much time for reading. I work or play. I have 
studied Boris Godounov and The Demon thoroughly. As 
to Moussorgsky's music, it may go to the devil for all 
I care : it is the commonest, lowest parody of music. 
In The Demon I have found some beautiful things, but 
a good deal of padding, too. On Sunday the Russian 
Quartet, that has brought out my quartet in D, is playing 

"I am glad my second quartet finds favour with you 
and Mademoiselle Maloziomov. 1 It is my best work ; not 
one of them has come to me so easily and fluently as this. 
I completed it as it were at one sitting. I am surprised 
the public do not care for it, for I have always thought, 
among this class of works, it had the best chance of success." 

I cannot understand how my brother can have inferred 
from my letter that the quartet had no success. It must 

1 A fellow-student of Tchaikovsky's, dame de compagnie of Anton Rubin- 
stein's class and the intimate friend of the masler. Afterwards teacher of 
pianoforte at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. 


have pleased, since it was repeated at least once during the 
season. Cui spoke of it as a "beautiful, talented, fluent 
work, which showed originality and invention." Laroche 
considered it " more serious and important than the first 
quartet " ; and Famitzin thought it showed " marked pro- 
gress. The first movement displayed as much style as 
Beethoven's A minor quartet." 

On November 1st (i3th) Napravnik conducted the first 
performance of The Tempest in St. Petersburg. 

From V. V. Stassov to Tchaikovsky. 

"November i$th (2$t/i), 10 a.m. 

"I have just come from the rehearsal for Saturday's 
concert. Your Tempest was played for the first time. 
Rimsky-Korsakov and I sat alone in the empty hall and 
overflowed with delight. 

" Your Tempest is fascinating ! Unlike any other work ! 
The tempest itself is not remarkable, or new ; Prospero, 
too, is nothing out of the way, and at the close you have 
made a very commonplace cadenza, such as one might 
find in the finale of an Italian opera these are three 
blemishes. But all the rest is a marvel of marvels ! 
Caliban, Ariel, the love-scene all belong to the highest 
creations of art. In both love-scenes, what passion, what 
languor, what beauty ! I know nothing to compare with 
it. The wild, uncouth Caliban, the wonderful flights of 
Ariel these are creations of the first order. 

" In this scene the orchestration is enchanting. 

" Rimsky and I send you our homage and heartiest 
congratulations upon the completion of such a fine piece 
of workmanship. The day after to-morrow (Friday) we 
shall attend the rehearsal again. We could not keep 
away. . . ." 

The Tempest not only pleased Stassov and " The Band," 
but won recognition even in the hostile camp. Laroche 
alone was dissatisfied. He considered that in his programme 
music Tchaikovsky approached Litolff as regards form and 
instrumentation, and Schumann and Glinka as regards 



harmony. The Tempest would not bear criticism as an 
organic whole. " Beautiful, very beautiful, are the details," 
he continues, " but even these are not all on a level ; for 
instance, the tempest itself is not nearly so impressive as 
in Berlioz's fantasia on the same subject. Tchaikovsky's 
storm is chiefly remarkable for noisy orchestration, which 
is, indeed, of so deafening a character that the specialist 
becomes curious to discover by what technical means the 
composer has succeeded in concocting such a pande- 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"November 2ist (December $rd}. 

" Toly, your general silence makes me uneasy. I begin 
to think something serious has happened, or one of you is 
ill. I am particularly puzzled about Modeste. I am aware 
that my Tempest was performed a few days ago. Why 
does no one write a word about it? After my quartet, 
Modeste wrote at considerable length, and also Made- 
moiselle Maloziomov. Now not a soul, except Stassov. 
Most strange ! 

" I am now completely absorbed in the composition of 
a pianoforte concerto. I am very anxious Rubinstein 
should play it at his concert. The work progresses very 
slowly, and does not turn out well. However, I stick to 
my intentions, and hammer pianoforte passages out of my 
brain : the result is nervous irritability. For this reason I 
should like to take a trip to Kiev for the sake of the rest, 
although this city has lost nine-tenths of its charms for 
me now Toly does not live there. For this reason, too, I 
hate The Oprichnik with all my heart. 1 . . . 

"To-morrow the overture to my 'unfinished opera' will 
be given here." 

The " unfinished opera " is none other than Vakoula the 
Smith. The overture had no success, but Tchaikovsky 
received the customary fee of 300 roubles from the Musical 

1 Tchaikovsky had to visit Kiev for the first performance of The Oprichnik 
in that city. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"November 26th (December Sth). 

"... You do not write a word (about The Tempest\ and 
Maloziomova is silent too. Laroche's criticism has enraged 
me. With what schadenfreude he points out that I imitate 
Litolff, Schumann, Berlioz, Glinka, and God knows whom 
besides. As though I could do nothing but compile ! I 
am not hurt that he does not like The Tempest. I expected 
as much, and I am quite contented that he should merely 
praise the details of the work. It is the general tone of 
his remarks that annoys me ; the insinuation that I have 
borrowed every thing from other composers and have nothing 
of my own. . . ." 

The hyper-sensitiveness which Tchaikovsky shows in 
this letter is a symptom of that morbid condition of mind, 
of which more will be said as the book advances. 

On December Qth Tchaikovsky attended the first per- 
formance of The Oprichnik at Kiev, and wrote an account 
of the event for the Russky Viedomosti. The opera had a 
great success, and remained in the repertory of the Kiev 
Opera House throughout the entire season. 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

11 January 6th (iSth) 1875. 

" I am very pleased with your newspaper article. You 
complain that writing comes to you with difficulty, and 
that you have to search for every phrase. But do you 
really suppose anything can be accomplished without 
trouble and discipline ? I often sit for hours pen in hand, 
and have no idea how to begin my articles. I think I 
shall never hammer anything out ; and afterwards people 
praise the fluency and ease of the writing ! Remember 
what pains Zaremba's exercises cost me. Do you forget 
how in the summer of '66 I worked my nerves to pieces 
over my First Symphony? And even now I often gnaw 
my nails to the quick, smoke any number of cigarettes, 


and pace up and down my room for long, before I can 
evolve a particular motive or theme. At other times 
writing comes easily, thoughts seem to flow and chase 
each other as they go. All depends upon one's mood and 
condition of mind. But even when we are not disposed 
for it we must force ourselves to work. Otherwise nothing 
can be accomplished. 

" You write of being out of spirits. Believe me, I am 
the same." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"January ^th (2\sf). 

" I cannot endure holidays. On ordinary days I work 
at fixed hours, and everything goes on like a machine. On 
holidays the pen falls from my hand of its own accord I 
want to be with those who are dear to me, to pour out my 
heart to them ; and then I am overcome by a sense of 
loneliness, of desolation. ... It is not merely that there 
is no one here I can really call my friend (like Laroche or 
Kondratiev), but also during these holidays I cannot shake 
off the effects of a cruel blow to my self-esteem which 
comes from none others than Nicholas Rubinstein and 
Hubert. When you consider that these two are my best 
friends, and in all Moscow no one should feel more interest 
in my compositions than they, you will understand how I 
have suffered. A remarkable fact ! Messrs. Cui, Stassov, 
and Co. have shown, on many occasions, that they take 
far more interest in me than my so-called friends ! Cui 
wrote me a very nice letter a few days ago. From 
Korsakov, too, I have received a letter which touched me 
deeply. . . . Yes, I feel very desolate here, and if it were 
not for my work, I should become altogether depressed. 
In my character lurk such timidity of other people, so 
much shyness and distrust in short, so many character- 
istics which make me more and more misanthropical. 
Imagine, nowadays, I am often drawn towards the mon- 
astic life, or something similar. Do not fancy I am 
physically out of health. I am quite well, sleep well, eat 
even better ; I am only in rather a sentimental frame of 
mind nothing more." 


Tchaikovsky has told so well the tale of Rubinstein's 
injury to his self-esteem in one of his subsequent letters 
to Frau von Meek, that I think it advisable to publish 
the entire letter in this particular chapter of the book. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REUO, January z\st (February 2nd), 1878. 

". . . In December, 1874, I had written a pianoforte 
concerto. As I am not a pianist, it was necessary to 
consult some virtuoso as to what might be ineffective, 
impracticable, and ungrateful in my technique. I needed 
a severe, but at the same time friendly, critic to point out 
in my work these external blemishes only. Without going 
into details, I must mention the fact that some inward 
voice warned me against the choice of Nicholas Rubin- 
stein as a judge of the technical side of my composition. 
However, as he was not only the best pianist in Moscow, 
but also a first-rate all-round musician, and, knowing that 
he would be deeply offended if he heard I had taken my 
concerto to anyone else, I decided to ask him to hear the 
work and give me his opinion upon the solo parts. It was 
on Christmas Eve, 1874. We were invited to Albrecht's 
house, and, before we went, Nicholas Rubinstein proposed 
I should meet him in one of the class-rooms at the Con- 
servatoire to go through the concerto. I arrived with my 
manuscript, and Rubinstein and Hubert soon appeared. 
The latter is a very worthy, clever man, but without the 
least self-assertion. Moreover, he is exceedingly garrulous, 
and needs a string of words to say ' yes ' or * no.' He is 
incapable of giving his opinion in any decisive form, and 
generally lets himself be pulled over to the strongest side. 
I must add, however, that this is not from cowardice, but 
merely from lack of character. 

" I played the first movement. Never a word, never a 
single remark. Do you know the awkward and ridiculous 
sensation of putting before a friend a meal which you have 
cooked yourself, which he eats and holds his tongue? 
Oh, for a single word, for friendly abuse, for anything to 
break the silence ! For God's sake say something / But 
Rubinstein never opened his lips. He was preparing his 


thunderbolt, and Hubert was waiting to see which way 
the wind would blow. I did not require a judgment of 
my work from the artistic side ; simply from the technical 
point of view. Rubinstein's silence was eloquent. ' My 
dear friend,' he seemed to be saying to himself, ' how can 
I speak of the details, when the work itself goes entirely 
against the grain ? " I gathered patience, and played the 
concerto straight through to the end. Still silence. 

" ' Well ? ' I asked, and rose from the piano. Then a 
torrent broke from Rubinstein's lips. Gentle at first, 
gathering volume as it proceeded, and finally bursting into 
the fury of a Jupiter-Tonans. My concerto was worthless, 
absolutely unplayable ; the passages so broken, so dis- 
connected, so unskilfully written, that they could not even 
be improved ; the work itself was bad, trivial, common ; 
here and there I had stolen from other people; only 
one or two pages were worth anything ; all the rest had 
better be destroyed, or entirely rewritten. ' For instance, 
that ? ' ' And what meaning is there in this ? ' Here the 
passages were caricatured on the piano. 'And look there ! 
Is it possible that anyone could ? ' etc., etc., etc. But the 
chief thing I cannot reproduce : the tone in which all this 
was said. An independent witness of this scene must have 
concluded I was a talentless maniac, a scribbler with no 
notion of composing, who had ventured to lay his rubbish 
before a famous man. Hubert was quite overcome by my 
silence, and was surprised, no doubt, that a man who had 
already written so many works, and was professor of com- 
position at the Conservatoire, could listen calmly and with- 
out contradiction to such a jobation, such as one would 
hardly venture to address to a student before having gone 
through his work very carefully. Then he began to com- 
ment upon Rubinstein's criticism, and to agree with it, 
although he made some attempt to soften the harshness 
of his judgment. I was not only astounded, but deeply 
mortified, by the whole scene. I require friendly counsel 
and criticism ; I shall always be glad of it, but there was 
no trace of friendliness in the whole proceedings. It was 
a censure delivered in such a form that it cut me to the 
quick. I left the room without a word and went upstairs. 
I could not have spoken for anger and agitation. Presently 


Rubinstein came to me and, seeing how upset I was, called 
me into another room. There he repeated that my con- 
certo was impossible, pointed out many places where it 
needed to be completely revised, and said if I would suit 
the concerto to his requirements, he would bring it out at 
his concert. ' I shall not alter a single note/ I replied, ' I 
shall publish the work precisely as it stands.' This inten- 
tion I actually carried out." 

Not only did Tchaikovsky publish the concerto in its 
original form, but he scratched out Rubinstein's name 
from the dedication and replaced it by that of Hans von 
Billow. Personally, Biilow was unknown to him, but he 
had heard from Klindworth that the famous pianist took a 
lively interest in his compositions, and had helped to make 
them known in Germany. 

Biilow was flattered by the dedication, and, in a long and 
grateful letter, praised the concerto very highly in direct 
opposition to Rubinstein saying, that of all Tchaikovsky's 
works with which he was acquainted this was "the most 

" The ideas," he wrote, " are so lofty, strong, and original. 
The details, which although profuse, in no way obscure 
the work as a whole, are so interesting. The form is so 
perfect, mature, and full of style in the sense that the in- 
tention and craftsmanship are everywhere concealed. I 
should grow weary if I attempted to enumerate all the 
qualities of your work qualities which compel me to con- 
gratulate, not only the composer, but all those who will 
enjoy the work in future, either actively or passively 

I have already mentioned that Tchaikovsky, in spite of 
a nature fundamentally noble and generous, was not al- 
together free from rancour. The episode of the pianoforte 
concerto proves this. It was long before he could forgive 
Rubinstein's cruel criticism, and this influenced their 
friendly relations. It is evident from the style of his letter 


to Nadejda von Meek, from the lively narration of every 
episode and detail of the affair, that the wound still smarted 
as severely as when it had been inflicted three years 

In 1878 Nicholas Rubinstein entirely healed the breach, 
and removed all grounds of ill-feeling when, with true 
nobility and simplicity, recognising the injustice he had 
done to the concerto in the first instance, he studied and 
played it, abroad and in Russia, with all the genius and 
artistic insight of which he was capable. 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" March qth (2isf). 

" The jester Fate has willed that for the last ten years 
I should live apart from all who are dear to me. ... If you 
have any powers of observation, you will have noticed that 
my friendship with Rubinstein and the other gentlemen of 
the Conservatoire is simply based on the circumstance of 
our being colleagues, and that none of them give me the 
tenderness and affection of which I constantly stand in 
need. Perhaps I am to blame for this ; I am very slow in 
forming new ties. However this may be, I suffer much for 
lack of someone I care for during these periods of hypo- 
chondria. All this winter I have been depressed to the 
verge of despair, and often wished myself dead. Now the 
spring is here the melancholy has vanished, but I know it 
will return in greater intensity with each winter to come, 
and so I have made up mind to live away from Moscow all 
next year. Where 1 shall go I cannot say, but I must 
have entire change of scene and surroundings. . . . Prob- 
ably you will have read of Laub's death in the papers." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"March 12/^(24^). 

" I see that Kondratiev has been giving you an over- 
coloured account of my hypochondriacal state. I have 
suffered all the winter, but my physical health is not in the 
least impaired. . . . Probably I wrote to Kondratiev in a 


fit of depression, and should find my account very much 
exaggerated if I were to read the letter now. You seem 
inclined to reproach me for being more frank with Kon- 
dratiev than with you. That is because I love you and 
Anatol ten times more than I love him ; not that he does 
not like me, but only in so far as I do not interfere with 
his comfort, which is the most precious thing in the world 
to him. If I had confided my state to you, or Anatol, you 
would have taken my troubles too much to heart; whereas 
Kondratiev would certainly not let them cause him any 
anxiety. As to what you say about my antipathy towards 
you, I pass it by as a joke. Upon what do you found your 
supposition? It makes me angry to see that you are not 
free from any of my own faults that much is certainly 
true. I wish I could find any of my idiosyncrasies miss- 
ing in you but I cannot. You are too like me : when I 
am vexed with you, I am vexed with myself, for you are 
my mirror, in which I see reflected the true image of all my 
own weaknesses. From this you can conclude that if you 
are antipathetic to me, this antipathy proceeds fundament- 
ally from myself. Ergo you are a fool, which no one 
ever doubted. Anatol wrote me a letter very like yours. 
Both letters were like a healing ointment to my suffering 
spirit. . . . The death of Laub has been a terrible grief to 

Following upon these letters, it becomes necessary to 
give some account of the mental and moral disorder which 
attacked Tchaikovsky during the course of this season, and 
gradually took firmer hold upon him, until in 1877 it 
reached a terrible crisis which nearly proved fatal to his 

The desire for liberty, the longing to cast off all the 
fetters which were a hindrance to his creative work, now 
began to assume the character of an undeclared, but 
chronic, disease, which only showed itself now and again 
in complaints against destiny, in poetical dreams of "a 
calm, quiet home," of " a peaceful and happy existence." 
Such aspirations came and went, according to the im- 


pressions and interests which filled his mind and imagina- 
tion. If we read the letters of this period carefully, we 
cannot fail to observe how every fluctuation in his circum- 
stances influenced his spiritual condition. We see it when 
he separated from Rubinstein and started a home of his 
own. His independence, his new friendships, once more 
reconciled him to existence, and his affection for Moscow 
or at least for the life it afforded then reached its climax. 
For a little while his longings for something better were 
stifled. But as early as 1872 his dissatisfaction and desire 
to escape from his surroundings make themselves felt ; 
although only infrequently and lightly expressed. 

In November 1873, we find him speaking frankly of his 
disenchantment with his Moscow friends, and complaining 
of his isolation and the lack of anyone who understood 
him. So far, these were only recurrent symptoms of a 
chronic malady. 

We see that in the spring of 1 874, when he was away from 
Moscow and from the friends of whom he had complained, 
he wished for their society again, wrote to them in affection- 
ate terms, and, during the whole of his visit to Petersburg, 
as later on to Italy, he was always looking forward to his 
return to " dear Moscow, where alone I can be happy." 

By 1875 the chronic malady had made considerable 
progress. It did not return at intervals as heretofore, but 
had become a constant trouble. According to his own 
account, he was depressed all the winter, sometimes to the 
verge of despair. He felt he had reached a turning-point 
in his existence, similar to that in the sixties. But then 
the desired goal had been his musical career, whereas now, 
it was " to live as he pleased." 

Tchaikovsky now resembled those invalids who do not 
recognise the true cause of their sufferings, and therefore 
have recourse to the wrong treatment. He believed the 
reason for his state lay in the absence of intimate friends, 
and that his one chance of a cure was to be found among 


" those who were dear to him " and " who alone could save 
him from the torments of solitude" from which he suffered. 
I lay stress upon this error of Tchaikovsky's, because, be- 
coming more and more of a fixed idea, it finally led the 
composer to take an insane step which almost proved his 

One symptom of Tchaikovsky's condition was the morbid 
sensibility of his artistic temperament. Even before the 
episode of the Bt? minor concerto, he chanced one day to 
play part of Vakoula the Smith before some of his friends. 

" He was too nervous to do justice to the work," says 
Kashkin, "and rendered the music in a pointless and 
spiritless fashion, which produced an unfavourable im- 
pression upon his little audience. Tchaikovsky, observing 
the cool attitude of his hearers, played the opera hurriedly 
through to the end and left the piano, annoyed by our lack 
of appreciation." 

At any other time such criticism would have been a 
momentary annoyance, soon forgotten. But just then, 
following upon his keen disappointment in The Oprichnik 
and the exaggerated hopes he had set upon Vakoula, he 
was much mortified at this reception of his "favourite 
child." Not only was he annoyed, but he considered him- 
self affronted by what seemed to him an unjust criticism. 
Hence the bitterness with which, at that period, he spoke 
of his Moscow friends. They, however, kept the same 
warmth of feeling for him, as was amply proved during 
the crisis of 1877. 

With the coming of spring Tchaikovsky's depression 
passed away, and he spent the Easter holidays very 
happily in the society of the twins, who came to visit him 
in Moscow. 

On May 4th (i6th) The Oprichnik was performed for 
the first time in Moscow. But all the composer's thoughts 
were now concentrated on his " favourite child, Vakoula the 


Smith" "You cannot imagine," he wrote to his brother 
Anatol, " how much I reckon upon this work. I think 
I might go mad if it failed to bring me luck. I do not 
want the prize I despise it, although money is no bad 
thing but I want my opera to be performed." 

Shortly before leaving Moscow for the summer, he was 
commissioned by the Imperial Opera to write a musical 
ballet entitled The Swan Lake. He did not immediately 
set to work upon this music, but went to Ussovo at the end 
of May, where he began his Third Symphony in D major. 
Late in June he visited his friend Kondratiev at Nizy, where 
he was exclusively occupied with the orchestration of this 
symphony until July I4th (26th), when he went to stay 
with his sister Madame Davidov at Verbovka. By August 
1st the symphony was finished, and Tchaikovsky took up 
the ballet music, for which he was to receive a fee of 800 
roubles (about 80). The first two acts were ready in 
a fortnight. 

Verbovka, the Davidovs' estate, was in the neighbour- 
hood of Kamenka, and Tchaikovsky was so fond of this 
spot that it became his favourite holiday resort, and cast 
the charms of Ussovo entirely in the shade. The summer 
of 1875 was spent not only in the society of his sister and 
her family, but also in that of his father and his brother 



To N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov. 

"Moscow, September loth (22nd), 1875. 

for your kind letter. You must know how I admire and 
bow down before your artistic modesty and your great 
strength of character ! These innumerable counterpoints, 


these sixty fugues, and all the other musical intricacies 
which you have accomplished all these things, from a 
man who had already produced a Sadko eight years 
previously are the exploits of a hero. I want to pro- 
claim them to all the world. I am astounded, and do not 
know how to express all my respect for your artistic 
temperament. How small, poor, self-satisfied and na'ive 
I feel in comparison with you ! I am a mere artisan in 
composition, but you will be an artist, in the fullest sense 
of the word. I hope you will not take these remarks 
as flattery. I am really convinced that with your im- 
mense gifts and the ideal conscientiousness with which 
you approach your work you will produce music that 
must far surpass all which so far has been composed in 

" I await your ten fugues with keen impatience. As it 
will be almost impossible for me to go to Petersburg for 
some time to come, I beg you to rejoice my heart by 
sending them as soon as possible. I will study them 
thoroughly and give you my opinion in detail. . . . The 
Opera Direction has commissioned me to write music for 
the ballet The Swan Lake. I accepted the work, partly 
because I want the money, but also because I have long 
had a wish to try my hand at this kind of music. 

" I should very much like to know how the decision 
upon the merits of the (opera) scores will go. I hope you 
may be a member of the committee. The fear of being 
rejected that is to say, not only losing the prize, but with 
it all possibility of seeing my Vakoula performed worries 
me very much. 

"Opinions here as regards Angela^- are most contradic- 
tory. Two years ago I heard Cui play the first act, which 
produced an unsympathetic impression upon me, especially 
in comparison with Ratcliff, of which I am extremely 

Contrary to custom, Petersburg, not Moscow, enjoyed 
the first hearing of Tchaikovsky's latest work. At the 
first Symphony Concert of the Musical Society, on De- 

1 An opera by Caesar Cui. 


cember 1st, Professor Kross played the Pianoforte Concerto. 
Both composer and player were recalled, but at the same 
time the work was only a partial success with the public. 
The Press, with one exception, was unfavourably disposed 
towards it. Famitzin spoke of the Concerto as " brilliant 
and grateful, but difficult for virtuosi." All the other 
critics, including Laroche, were dissatisfied. The latter 
praised the Introduction for its "clearness, triumphal 
solemnity, and splendour," and thought the other move- 
ments did not display the melodic charm to be expected 
from the composer of The Oprichnik and Romeo and 
Juliet. " The Concerto," he continued, " was ungrateful 
for pianists, and would have no future." 

At the first Symphony Concert in Moscow, November 
7th (iQth), Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony was produced 
for the first time with marked success. 

To N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov. 

"Moscow, November \2th (24^), 1875. 

day for the first time I have a free moment in which to 
talk to you. Business first. 

" i. It goes without saying that Rubinstein will be much 
obliged if you will send him Antar}- We shall await the 
score impatiently, and also the quartet, which interests me 
very much. . . . 

" 2. Jurgenson will be glad if you will let him have the 
quartet. Have I explained your conditions correctly? 
I told him you expected a fee of fifty roubles, and the 
pianoforte arrangement was to be made at his expense. 
I know a young lady here who arranged my second 
quartet very well. So if your wife will not undertake to 
do it herself, we might apply to her. . . . 

" I went direct from the station to the rehearsal of my 
symphony. It seems to me the work does not contain any 
very happy ideas, but, as regards form, it is a step in 

1 Rimsky-Korsakov's Second Symphony, or " Eastern Suite," Op 9. 


advance. I am best pleased with the first movement, and 
also with the two Scherzi, the second of which is very diffi- 
cult, consequently not nearly so well played as it might 
have been if we could have had more rehearsals. Our 
rehearsals never last more than two, hours ; we have three, 
it is true, but what can be done in two hours? On the 
whole, however, I was satisfied with the performance. . . . 
"... A few days ago I had a letter from Biilow, en- 
closing a number of American press notices of my Piano- 
forte Concerto. The Americans think the first movement 
suffers from ' the lack of a central idea around which 
to assemble such a host of musical fantasies, which make 
up the breezy and ethereal whole.' The same critic dis- 
covered in the finale ' syncopation on the trills, spasmodic 
interruptions of the subject, and thundering octave pas- 
sages ' ! Think what appetites these Americans have : 
after every performance Biilow was obliged to repeat the 
entire finale ! Such a thing could never happen here." 

The first performance of the Concerto in Moscow took 
place on November 2ist (December 3rd), 1875, when it 
was played by the young pianist Serge Taneiev, the 
favourite pupil of N. Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. Taneiev 
had made his first appearance in public in January of the 
same year. On this occasion he played the ungrateful 
Concerto of Brahms, and won not only the sympathy of 
the public, but the admiration of connoisseurs. Tchai- 
kovsky's account of Taneiev's debut is not quite free from 
affectionate partiality, but it is so characteristic that it 
deserves quotation : 

" The interest of the Seventh Symphony concert was 
enhanced by the first appearance of the young pianist 
Serge Taneiev, who brilliantly fulfilled all the hopes of his 
teachers on this occasion. Besides purity and strength of 
touch, grace, and ease of execution, Taneiev astonished 
everyone by his maturity of intellect, his self-control, and 
the calm objective style of his interpretation. While 
possessing all the qualities of his master, Taneiev cannot 
be regarded as a mere copyist. He has his own artistic 


individuality, which has won him a place among virtuosi 
from the very outset of his career. . . ." 

Tchaikovsky was delighted with Taneiev's rendering of 
his own Concerto, and wrote : 

" The chief feature of his playing lies in his power to 
grasp the composer's intention in all its most delicate and 
minute details, and to realise them precisely as the author 
heard them himself." 

In November, 1875, Camille Saint-Saens came to con- 
duct and play some of his works in Moscow. The short, 
lively man, with his Jewish type of features, attracted 
Tchaikovsky and fascinated him not only by his wit and 
original ideas, but also by his masterly knowledge of his 
art. Tchaikovsky used to say that Saint-Saens knew how 
to combine the grace and charm of the French school with 
the depth and earnestness of the great German masters. 
Tchaikovsky became very friendly with him, and hoped 
this friendship would prove very useful in the future. It 
had no results, however. Long afterwards they met again 
as comparative strangers, and always remained so. 

During Saint-Saens' short visit to Moscow a very amus- 
ing episode took place. One day the friends discovered 
they had a great many likes and dislikes in common, not 
merely in the world of music, but in other respects. In 
their youth both had been enthusiastic admirers of the 
ballet, and had often tried to imitate the art of the dancers. 
This suggested the idea of dancing together, and they 
brought out a little ballet, Pygmalion and Galatea, on the 
stage of the Conservatoire. Saint-Saens, aged forty, played 
the part of Galatea most conscientiously, while Tchai- 
kovsky, aged thirty- five, appeared as Pygmalion. N. 
Rubinstein formed the orchestra. Unfortunately, besides 
the three performers, no spectators witnessed this singular 


The fate of Vakoula the Smith was Tchaikovsky's chief 
preoccupation at this time. The jury consisted of A. 
Kireiev, Asantchevsky, N. Rubinstein, Th. Tolstoi, Rim- 
sky-Korsakov, Napravnik, Laroche, and K. Davidov. 

Tchaikovsky's score, so Laroche relates, was of course 
copied out in a strange autograph, " but the motto, which 
was identical with the writing in the parcel, was in 
Tchaikovsky's own hand. 'Ars longa, vita brevis' ran 
the motto, and the characteristic features of the writing 
were well known to us all, so that from the beginning 
there was not the least room for doubt that Tchaikovsky 
was the composer of the score. But even if he had not 
had the naivete to write this inscription with his own 
hand, the style of the work would have proclaimed his 
authorship. As the Grand Duke remarked laughingly, 
during the sitting of the jury : ''Secret de la comedie! " 

The result of the prize competition was very much 
talked of in Petersburg. Long before the decision of the 
jury was publicly announced, everyone knew that their 
approval of Vakoula was unanimous. 

In October Rimsky-Korsakov wrote to Tchaikovsky as 
follows : 

" I do not doubt for a moment that your opera will 
carry off the prize. To my mind, the operas sent in bear 
witness to a very poor state of things as regards music 
here. . . . Except your work, I do not consider there is 
one fit to receive the prize, or to be performed in public." 

Towards the end of October the individual views of 
the jury were collected in a general decision, and 
Tchaikovsky received a letter from the Grand Duke 
Constantine Nicholaevich, in his own handwriting, con- 
gratulating him as the prize-winner of the competition. 

During October Modeste Tchaikovsky retired from the 
Government service in order to become private tutor to 
a deaf and dumb boy, Nicholas Konradi. The child's 



parents decided to send young Tchaikovsky to Lyons for 
a year, to study a special system of education for deaf 

The composer and his brother left Russia together 
towards the end of December. " Even the various difficul- 
ties and unpleasant occurrences of this trip could not 
damp our cheerful spirits," says Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
My delight in the journey, and the interest I felt in every- 
thing I saw " abroad," infected my brother. He enjoyed 
my pleasure, laughed at the innocence of his inexperienced 
travelling companion, and threw himself energetically into 
the part of guide to an impressionable tourist. 

From Berlin we travelled to Geneva, where we spent 
ten days with my sister and her family (the Davidovs). 
Afterwards we went on to Paris. Here my brother ex- 
perienced one of the strongest musical impressions of his 

On March 3rd (iSth), 1873, Bizet's opera Carmen was 
given for the first time. Vladimir Shilovsky, who was in 
Paris at the time, attended this performance. Captivated 
by the work, he sent the pianoforte score to his teacher in 
Moscow. My brother was never so completely carried 
away by any modern composition as by Carmen. Bizet's 
death, three months after the production of the work, only 
served to strengthen his almost unwholesome passion for 
this opera. 

During our visit to Paris Carmen was being played at 
the Opera Comique. We went to hear it, and I never 
saw Peter Ilich so excited over any performance. This 
was not merely due to the music and the piquant orchestra- 
tion of the score, which he now heard for the first time, 
but also to the admirable acting of Galli-Marie, who sang 
the title-role. She reproduced the type of Carmen with 
wonderful realism, and at the same time managed to 
combine with the display of unbridled passion an element 
of mystical fatalism which held us spell-bound. 


Two days later we parted. My brother returned to 
Russia, while I remained in France. 

On January 25th (February 6th) the Third Symphony 
was performed in Petersburg under Napravnik's baton. 
Cui criticised it in the following words : 

" The public remained cool during the performance of 
the work, and applauded very moderately after each 
movement. At the end, however, the composer was en- 
thusiastically recalled. This symphony must be taken 
seriously. The first three movements are the best ; the 
only charm of the fourth being its sonority, for the musical 
contents are poor. The fifth movement, a polonaise, is the 
weakest. On the whole the new symphony shows talent, 
but we have a right to expect more from Tchaikovsky." 

Laroche said : 

" The importance and power of the music, the beauty 
and variety of form, the nobility of style, originality and 
rare perfection of technique, all contribute to make this 
symphony one of the most remarkable musical works 
produced during the last ten years. Were it to be played 
in any musical centre in Germany, it would raise the 
name of the Russian musician to a level with those of 
the most famous symphonic composers of the day." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, February loth (22nd). 

" I am working might and main to finish a quartet l 
which you may remember I started upon in Paris. 
Press opinions upon my symphony Laroche not excepted 
are rather cold. They all consider I have nothing new 
to say, and am beginning to repeat myself. Can this 
really be the case ? After finishing the quartet I will rest 
for a time, and only complete my ballet. I shall not 
embark upon anything new until I have decided upon 
an opera. I waver between two subjects, Ephraim and 
Francesca. I think the latter will carry the day." 

1 No. 3, Op. 30. 


Ephraim was a libretto written by Constantine Shilovsky 
upon a love-tale of the court of Pharaoh, at the period of 
the Hebrew captivity. 

Francesco, da Rimini was a ready-made libretto by 
Zvantsiev, which had been suggested to Tchaikovsky by 
Laroche. It was based upon the fifth canto of Dante's 

Neither of these books satisfied the composer. After 
seeing Carmen he only cared for a similar subject: a libretto 
dealing with real men and women who stood in closer touch 
with modern life ; a drama which was at once simple and 

The new Quartet No. 3 was played for the first time 
at a concert given by the violinist Grijimal, March* i8th. 
Later on it was repeated at a chamber music evening of 
the Musical Society. On both occasions its success was 

In May Tchaikovsky was out of health and was ordered 
by the doctors to take a course of waters at Vichy. He 
reached Lyons on June 2/th (July 9th), where he met 
Modeste, and made the acquaintance of his brother's pupil, 
to whom he became much attached. 

His first impressions of Vichy were far from favourable, 
but the local physician persuaded him to remain at least 
long enough for a "demi-cure," from which he derived great 
benefit. He then rejoined Modeste and young Konradi 
for a short time, and went to Bayreuth at the end of July, 
where a lodging had been secured for him by Karl Klind- 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 

" BAYREUTH, August 2nd (14^). 

"... I arrived here on July 3ist (August I2th), the day 
before the performance. Klindworth met me. I found a 
number of well-known people here, and plunged straight- 
way into the vortex of the festival, in which I whirl all day 
long like one possessed. I have also made the acquaintance 


of Liszt, who received me most amiably. I called on Wagner, 
who no longer sees anyone. Yesterday the performance of 
the Rheingold took place. From the scenic point of view 
it interested me greatly, and I was also much impressed by 
the truly marvellous staging of the work. Musically, it is 
inconceivable nonsense, in which here and there occur 
beautiful, and even captivating, moments. Among the 
people here who are known to you are Rubinstein with 
whom I am living Laroche and Cui. 

" Bayreuth is a tiny little town in which, at the present 
moment, several thousand people are congregated. ... I 
am not at all bored, although I cannot say I enjoy my visit 
here, so that all my thoughts and efforts are directed to 
getting away to Russia, via Vienna, as soon as possible. I 
hope to accomplish this by Thursday." 

In the articles Tchaikovsky sent to the Russky Viedo- 
mosti, he describes his visit to Bayreuth in detail : 

" I reached Bayreuth on August 1 2th (new style), the 
day before the first performance of the first part of the 
Trilogy. The town was in a state of great excitement. 
Crowds of people, natives and strangers, gathered together 
literally from the ends of the earth, were rushing to the 
railway-station to see the arrival of the Emperor. I wit- 
nessed the spectacle from the window of a neighbouring 
house. First some brilliant uniforms passed by, then the 
musicians of the Wagner Theatre, in procession, with Hans 
Richter, the conductor, at their head ; next followed the 
interesting figure of the ' Abbe ' Liszt, with the fine, charac- 
teristic head I have so often admired in pictures; and, 
lastly, in a sumptuous carriage, the serene old man, Richard 
Wagner, with his aquiline nose and the delicately ironical 
smile which gives such a characteristic expression to the 
face of the creator of this cosmopolitan and artistic festival. 
A rousing ' Hurrah ' resounded from thousands of throats 
as the Emperor's train entered the station. The old 
Emperor stepped into the carriage awaiting him, and 
drove to the palace. Wagner, who followed immediately 
in his wake, was greeted by the crowds with as much 
enthusiasm as the Emperor. What pride, what overflowing 


emotions must have filled at this moment the heart of that 
little man who, by his energetic will and great talent, has 
defied all obstacles to the final realisation of his artistic 
ideals and audacious views ! 

" I made a little excursion through the streets of the 
town. They swarmed with people of all nationalities, who 
looked very much preoccupied, and as if in search of 
something. The reason of this anxious search I discovered 
only too soon, as I myself had to share it. All these rest- 
less people, wandering through the town, were seeking to 
satisfy the pangs of hunger, which even the fulness of 
artistic enjoyment could not entirely assuage. The little 
town offers, it is true, sufficient shelter to strangers, but it 
is not able to feed all its guests. So it happened that, even 
on the very day of my arrival, I learnt what ' t the struggle 
for existence' can mean. There are very few hotels in 
Bayreuth, and the greater part of the visitors find accom- 
modation in private houses. The tables d'hote prepared 
in the inns are not sufficient to satisfy all the hungry people ; 
one can only obtain a piece of bread, or a glass of beer, 
with immense difficulty, by dire struggle, or cunning strata- 
gem, or iron endurance. Even when a modest place at a 
table has been stormed, it is necessary to wait an eternity 
before the long-desired meal is served. Anarchy reigns at 
these meals ; everyone is calling and shrieking, and the 
exhausted waiters pay no heed to the rightful claims of an 
individual. Only by the merest chance does one get a 
taste of any of the dishes. In the neighbourhood of the 
theatre is a restaurant which advertises a good dinner at 
two o'clock. But to get inside it and lay hold of anything 
in that throng of hungry creatures is a feat worthy of a 

" I have dwelt upon this matter at some length with the 
design of calling the attention of my readers to this promi- 
nent feature of the Bayreuth Melomania. As a matter of 
fact, throughout the whole duration of the festival, food 
forms the chief interest of the public ; the artistic repre- 
sentations take a secondary place. Cutlets, baked potatoes, 
omelettes, are discussed much more eagerly than Wagner's 

" I have already mentioned that the representatives of all 


civilised nations were assembled in Bayreuth. In fact, 
even on the day of my arrival, I perceived in the crowd 
many leaders of the musical world in Europe and America. 
But the greatest of them, the most famous, were con- 
spicuous by their absence. Verdi, Gounod, Thomas, 
Brahms, Anton Rubinstein, Raff, Joachim, Biilow had not 
come to Bayreuth. Among the noted Russian musicians 
present were : Nicholas Rubinstein, Cui, Laroche, Famitsin, 
Klindworth (who, as is well known, has made the piano- 
forte arrangement of the Wagner Trilogy), Frau Walzeck, 
the most famous professor of singing in Moscow, and 

" The performance of the RheingoldtoQ\i place on August 
ist (i3th), at 7 p.m. It lasted without a break two hours 
and a half. The other three parts, Walkure, Siegfried, and 
Gotterdammerung) will be given with an hour's interval, 
and will last from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. In consequence of 
the indisposition of the singer Betz, Siegfried was post- 
poned from Tuesday to Wednesday, so that the first cycle 
lasted fully five days. At three o'clock we take our way 
to the theatre, which stands on a little hill rather distant 
from the town. That is the most trying part of the day, 
even for those who have managed to fortify themselves 
with a good meal. The road lies uphill, with absolutely no 
shade, so that one is exposed to the scorching rays of the 
sun. While waiting for the performance to begin, the 
motley troop encamps on the grass near the theatre. 
Some sit over a glass of beer in the restaurant. Here 
acquaintances are made and renewed. From all sides one 
hears complaints of hunger and thirst, mingled with com- 
ments on present or past performances. At four o'clock, 
to the minute, the fanfare sounds, and the crowd streams 
into the theatre. Five minutes later all the seats are 
occupied. The fanfare sounds again, the buzz of conver- 
sation is stilled, the lights turned down, and darkness 
reigns in the auditorium. From depths invisible to the 
audience in which the orchestra is sunk float the strains 
of the beautiful overture ; the curtain parts to either side, 
and the performance begins. Each act lasts an hour and 
a half; then comes an interval, but a very disagreeable 
one, for the sun is still far from setting, and it is difficult 


to find any place in the shade. The second interval, on 
the contrary, is the most beautiful part of the day. The 
sun is already near the horizon ; in the air one feels 
the coolness of evening, the wooded hills around and the 
charming little town in the distance are lovely. Towards 
ten o'clock the performance comes to an end. . . ." 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 

"VIENNA, August %th (2oM), 1876. 

" Bayreuth has left me with disagreeable recollections, 
although my artistic ambition was flattered more than 
once. It appears I am by no means as unknown in 
Western Europe as I believed. The disagreeable recollec- 
tions are raised by the uninterrupted bustle in which I was 
obliged to take part. It finally came to an end on Thurs- 
day. After the last notes of the Gotterdammenmg, I felt 
as though I had been let out of prison. The Nibelungen 
may be actually a magnificent work, but it is certain that 
there never was anything so endlessly and wearisomely 
spun out. 

" From Bayreuth I went first to Nuremberg, where I 
spent a whole day and wrote the notice for the Russky 
Viedomosti. Nuremberg is charming ! I arrived in Vienna 
to-day and leave to-morrow for Verbovka." 

Laroche contributes the following account of Tchai- 
kovsky's visit to the Bayreuth festival : 

" The effort of listening and gazing during the immensely 
long acts of the Wagner Trilogy (especially of Rheingold 
and the first part of G otter ddmmerung, which both last 
without interval for two hours), the sitting in a close, dark 
amphitheatre in tropical heat, the sincere endeavour to 
understand the language and style of the book of the 
words which is so clumsy and difficult in its composition 
that even to Germans themselves it is almost inaccessible 
all produced in Tchaikovsky a feeling of great depression, 
from which he only recovered when it came to an end and 
he found himself at a comfortable supper with a glass of 
beer. . , ." 


Such was the impression produced upon Tchaikovsky by 
the Nibelungen, He himself recorded the following obser- 
vations upon Wagner's colossal work : 

" I brought away the impression that the Trilogy con- 
tains many passages of extraordinary beauty, especially 
symphonic beauty, which is remarkable, as Wagner has 
certainly no intention of writing an opera in the style of 
a symphony. I feel a respectful admiration for the im- 
mense talents of the composer and his wealth of technique, 
such as has never been heard before. And yet I have grave 
doubts as to the truth of Wagner's principles of opera. I 
will, however, continue the study of this music the most 
complicated which has hitherto been composed. 

" Yet if the ' Ring ' bores one in places, if much in it is 
at first incomprehensible and vague, if Wagner's harmonies 
are at times open to objection, as being too complicated 
and artificial, and his theories are false, even if the results 
of his immense work should eventually fall into oblivion, 
and the Bayreuth Theatre drop into an eternal slumber, 
yet the Nibelungen Ring is an event of the greatest im- 
portance to the world, an epoch-making work of art." 

Morally and physically exhausted, pondering uninter- 
ruptedly on his own future, and imbued with the firm 
conviction that "things could not go on as they were," 
Tchaikovsky returned from foreign countries, travelling 
through Vienna to Verbovka. 

There a hearty welcome from his relations awaited him, 
and all the idyllic enjoyments of the country. The happy 
family life of the Davidovs was the best thing to calm and 
comfort Tchaikovsky, but, at the same time, it strengthened 
a certain intention in which his morbid imagination dis- 
cerned the one means of "salvation," but which actually 
became the starting-point of still greater troubles and 
worries. On August iQth (sist) he wrote to me from 
Verbovka : 

" I have now to pass through a critical moment in my 
life. By-and-by I will write to you about it more fully ; 


meanwhile I must just tell you that I have decided to get 
married. This is irrevocable. . . ." 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, September loth (22nd}, 1876. 

"... Nearly two months have passed since we parted 
from each other, but they seem to me centuries^/ During 
this time I have thought much about you, and also about 
myself and my future. My reflections have resulted in the 
firm determination to marry some one or other." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, September i^th (29^). 

" Time passes uneventfully. In this colourless existence, 
however, lies a certain charm. I can hardly express in 
words how sweet is this feeling of quiet. What comfort I 
might almost say happiness it is to return to my pleasant 
rooms and sit down with a book in my hand ! At this 
moment'I hate, probably not less than you do, that beauti- 
ful, unknown being who will force me to change my way 
of living. Do not be afraid, I shall not hurry in this 
matter ; you may be sure I will approach it with great 
caution, and only after much deliberation." 

To A. Tchaikovsky. 

11 September zvth (October 2nd). 

" Toly, I long for you again. I am worried with the 
thought that while you were staying in Moscow I did not 
treat you kindly enough. If such a thought should come 
to you too, know (you know it already) that my lack of 
tenderness by no means implies a lack of love and attach- 
ment. I was only vexed with myself, and vexed assuredly, 
because I deceived you when I said I had arrived at an 


important turning-point in my existence. That is not 
true ; I have not arrived at it, but I think of it and wait 
for something to spur me on to action. In the meantime, 
however, the quiet evening hours in my dear little home, 
the rest and solitude I must confess to this have great 
charms for me. I shudder when I think I must give it all 
up. And yet it will come to pass. . . ." 

To Rimsky-Korsakov. 
"Moscow, September 2^th (October nth\ 1876. 

" DEAR FRIEND, As soon as I had read your letter 
I went to Jurgenson and asked him about the quartet. I 
must tell you something which clearly explains Jurgenson's 
delay. When you sent the parts of your quartet to 
Rubinstein last year, it was played through by our Quartet 
Society, Jurgenson being present. Now your quartet by 
no means pleased these gentlemen, and they expressed 
some surprise that Jurgenson should dream of publishing 
a. work which appeared destined to fall into oblivion. This 
may have cooled the ardour of our publisher. In the 
approaching series of Chamber Concerts the quartet will 
probably be performed, and I fancy the members of the 
Society will retract their opinion when they get to know 
your work better. I am convinced of this, because I know 
how your quartet improves on acquaintance. The first 
movement is simply delicious, and ideal as to form. It 
might serve as a pattern of purity of style. The andante is 
a little dry, but just on that account very characteristic 
as reminiscent of the days of powder and patches. The 
scherzo is very lively, piquant, and must sound well. As 
to the finale, I freely confess that it in no wise pleases me, 
although I acknowledge that it may do so when I hear it, 
and then I may find the obtrusive rhythm of the chief theme 
less frightfully unbearable. I consider you are at present 
in a transition period ; in a state of fermentation ; and no 
one knows what you are capable of doing. With your 
talents and your character you may achieve immense 
results. As I have said, the first movement is a pattern of 
virginal purity of style. It has something of Mozart's 
beauty and unaffectedness. 


" You ask whether I have really written a third quartet. 
Yes, it is so. I produced it last winter, after my return 
from abroad. It contains an " Andante funebre," which has 
had so great a success that the quartet was played three 
times in public in the course of a fortnight." 

To A. Davidov. 

" October 6th (iZtti). 

"... Do not worry yourself about my marriage, my 
angel. The event is not yet imminent, and will certainly 
not come off before next year. In the course of next 
month I shall begin to look around and prepare myself 
a little for matrimony, which for various reasons I consider 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"October 14/^(26^). 

" I have only just finished the composition of a new 
work, the symphonic fantasia, Francesca da Rimini. I 
have worked at it con amore, and believe my love has been 
successful. With regard to the Whirlwind, perhaps it 
might correspond better to Dore's picture ; it has not 
turned out quite what I wanted. However, an accurate 
estimate of the work is impossible, so long as it is neither 
orchestrated nor played." 

To E. Napravnik. 

" October i8M (30^). 

"I have just read in a Petersburg paper that you intend 
to give the dances from my opera Vakoula at one of the 
forthcoming symphony concerts. Would it be possible to 
perform my new symphonic poem, Francesca da Rimini, 
instead? I am actually working at the orchestration of 
this work, and could have the score ready in two or three 
weeks. It would never have occurred to me to trouble 
you with my new work, had I not seen that my name was 
already included in your programmes. As you have been 
so kind as to grant me a little room at your concerts, I 
hope you will agree to my present proposal. I must 
frankly confess that I am somewhat troubled about the 


fate of my opera. So far, I have not even heard whether 
the choral rehearsals have begun. Perhaps you will be 
so kind as to send me word about the performance of 

To A. Davidov. 

" November %th (2th). 

" Probably you were not quite well, my little dove, 1 when 
you wrote to me, for a note of real melancholy pervaded 
your letter. I recognised in it a nature closely akin to my 
own. I know the feeling only too well. In my life, too, 
there are days, hours, weeks, aye, and months, in which 
everything looks black, when I am tormented by the 
thought that I am forsaken, that no one cares for me. 
Indeed, my life is of little worth to anyone. Were I to 
vanish from the face of the earth to-day, it would be no 
great loss to Russian music, and would certainly cause no 
one great unhappiness. In short, I live a selfish bachelor's 
life. I work for myself alone, and care only for myself. 
This is certainly very comfortable, although dull, narrow, 
and lifeless. But that you, who are indispensable to so 
many whose happiness you make, that you can give way 
to depression, is more than I can believe. How can you 
doubt for a moment the love and esteem of those who 
surround you ? How could it be possible not to love you ? 
No, there is no one in the world more dearly loved than 
you are. As for me, it would be absurd to speak of my 
love for you. If I care for anyone, it is for you, for your 
family, for my brothers and our old Dad. I love you all, 
not because you are my relations, but because you are the 
best people in the world. . . ." 

At the end of October Tchaikovsky came to Petersburg 
to be present at the first performance of his Vakoula the 
Smith. This time the composer had not been disen- 
chanted by his work ; on the contrary, every rehearsal 
gave him more and more pleasure, and the hope of success 
increased. The appreciation shown him by the singers 

1 There is no real English equivalent for the term " goloubouska" 


engaged in the work ; the enthusiastic verdict of the con- 
noisseurs who had become acquainted with the pianoforte 
arrangement, and of those who were able to attend the 
rehearsals ; finally, the lavish expenditure with which the 
Direction was mounting the piece everything encouraged 
Tchaikovsky to feel assured of great success. 

Since the first production of The Oprichnik the popu- 
larity of Tchaikovsky's name had considerably increased. 
Not only musicians, and those who attended the symphony 
concerts, but also the public in the widest sense of the 
word expected something quite out of the common. 
Long before November 24th (December 6th), the day 
fixed for the first performance of Vakoula, the tickets were 
already sold out. 

The production had been very carefully prepared ; the 
principals endeavoured to do their best. The overture 
was well received, as also the first scene. Then the 
enthusiasm of the audience cooled, and the succeeding 
numbers with the exception of the " Gopak" 1 obtained 
but scant applause. The opera failed to please ; people 
had come to be amused, expecting something brilliant, 
humorous, and lively, in the style of The Barber of Seville, 
or Domino Noir, consequently they were disappointed. 
Nevertheless, the composer was recalled several times, 
although not without some opposition on the part of a 
small, but energetic, party. 

Tchaikovsky himself, in a letter to Taneiev, writes as 
follows : 

" Vakoula was a brilliant failure. The first two acts left 
the audience cold. During the scene between the Golova 
and the Dyak there was some laughter, but no applause. 
After the third and fourth acts I had several calls, but also 
a few hisses from a section of the public. The second 
performance was somewhat better, but one cannot say that 
the opera pleased, or is likely to live through six per- 

1 A characteristic Russian dance. 


" It is worth notice that at the dress rehearsal even Cui 
prophesied a brilliant success for the work. This made the 
blow all the harder and more bitter to bear. I must freely 
confess that I am much discouraged. I have nothing to 
complain of with regard to the mounting of the work. 
Everything, to the smallest details, had been well studied 
and prepared ... in short, I alone am in fault. The 
opera is too full of unnecessary incidents and details, too 
heavily orchestrated, and not sufficiently vocal. Now I 
understand your cool attitude when I played it over to 
you at Rubinstein's. The style of Vakoula is not good 
opera style it lacks movement and breadth." 

The opinions of the Press on the new work were very 
similar. No one " praised it to the skies," but no one 
damned it. All expressed more or less esteem for the 
composer, but none were quite contented with his work. 

To S. /. Taneiev. 
"Moscow, December 2nd (14^), 1876. 

"... I have just heard that my Romeo was hissed in 
Vienna. Do not say anything about it, or Pasdeloup may 
take fright ; I hear he thinks of doing it. 

" Yes, indeed, dear friend, there are trying times in life ! 

" Francesco, has long been finished, and will now be 
copied out." 

Hans Richter, who conducted the Vienna performance 
of Romeo, declared that the comparative failure of the work 
did not amount to a fiasco. Certainly at the concert 
itself a few hisses were heard, and Hanslick wrote an 
abusive criticism of it in the Neue Freie Presse, but at the 
same time much interest, even enthusiasm, was shown for 
the new Russian work. 

Hardly had Tchaikovsky swallowed the bitter Viennese 
pill, than he received equally disagreeable news from 
Taneiev in Paris. 


Taneiev to Tchaikovsky. 
"PARIS, November 2%th (December io//fc), 1876. 

" I have just come from Pasdeloup's concert, where your 
Romeo overture was shamefully bungled. The tempi were 
all too fast, so that one could scarcely distinguish the three 

notes \JL ; LJ one from the other. The second 

subject was played by the wind as if they had only to 
support the harmony, and did not realise they had the 

" The following was especially bad : 


not a single crescendo, not a single diminuendo. At the 
repetition of the accessory theme in D major 

the bassoons played their fifth in the bass so energetically 
that they drowned the other parts. There were no abso- 
lutely false notes, but the piece produced a poor effect. 
Pasdeloup obviously understood nothing about it, and does 
not know how such a piece should be played. No wonder 
the Overture did not please the public and was but coolly 
received. It was as painful to me as if I had been taking 
part in the concert myself. Pasdeloup alone, however, was 
to blame, not the public. The Overture is by no means 
incomprehensible ; it only needs to be well interpreted. 

" I played your concerto to Saint-Saens ; everyone was 
much pleased with it. All musicians here are greatly 
interested in your compositions." 


To S. Taneiev. 

"Moscow, December $th (17^), 1876. 

"DEAR SERGIUS, I have just received your letter. 
Good luck and bad always come together ; it is proverbial, 
and I am not surprised to hear of the non -success of my 
Francesca, as just now all my compositions are failures. But 
your letter suggested an idea to me. Last year Saint- 
Saens advised me to give a concert of my own compositions 
in Paris. He said such a concert would be best given with 
Colonne's orchestra at the Chatelet, and would not cost 
very much." 

5. Taneiev to Tchaikovsky. 

"PARIS, December ibth (28^), 1876. 

"Saint-Saens advises you more strongly than ever to 
give a concert, in order to produce your Romeo and 
Juliet. . . . 'Ce/a Va pose, cette overture] was his remark. 
You must give your concert in the Salle Herz, with 
Colonne's orchestra. All expenses, including two re- 
hearsals, will come to 1,500 francs. Two rehearsals will 
not be sufficient ; we should need at least three. Even 
then, 2,000 francs would be the maximum expenditure. 
The orchestra are paid five francs for each rehearsal, and 
ten for the concert. The most favourable time would be 
February or March." 

To S. Taneiev. 
"Moscow, January 2^th (February 10^), 1877. 

"DEAR SERGIUS, My concert will not come off. In 
spite of gigantic efforts on my part, I cannot raise the 
necessary funds. 

" I am in despair. 

" I can write no more to-day. Forgive me for the trouble 
I have given you over my unlucky plans. Thank you for 
your letter." 

In spite of the bitterness left by the comparative failure 
of Vakoula, and the many other blows which his artistic 
ambitions had to suffer, Tchaikovsky, after his return to 


Moscow, did not lose his self-confidence, nor let his energy 
flag for a moment. On the contrary, although grieved at 
the fate of his " favourite offspring, Vakoula? and at his 
unlucky dtbut as a composer in Vienna and Paris, although 
suffering from a form of dyspepsia, he was not only in- 
terested in the propaganda of his works abroad, but com- 
posed his Variations on a Rococo Theme for violoncello, and 
corresponded with Stassov about an operatic libretto. The 
choice of the subject Othello emanated from Tchaikov- 
sky himself. When Stassov tried to persuade him that 
this subject was not suitable to his temperament, he re- 
fused to listen to arguments, and would only consider this 
particular play. About the middle of September Stas- 
sov sent him the rough sketch which he began to study 
zealously. But it went no further. On January 3<Dth 
Stassov wrote to him : " Do as you will, but I have not 
finished Othello yet. Hang me if you please but it is 
not my fault." Tchaikovsky himself had also begun to 
feel less eager, for he remarks in a letter to Stassov that he 
is not to trouble about a new subject. 

At this time the composer was in such good health, and 
so active-minded, that he gave up his original intention of 
spending Christmas at Kamenka, and stayed on in Moscow. 

In December Tchaikovsky wrote to his sister, A. Davi- 

"A short time ago Count Leo Tolstoi was here. He 
called upon me, and I am proud to have awakened his 
interest. On my part, I am full of enthusiasm for his ideal 

For a long time past since the first appearance of 
Tolstoi's works Tchaikovsky had been one of his most 
ardent admirers, and this admiration had gradually become 
a veritable cult for the name of Tolstoi. It was characteristic 
of the composer that everything he cared for, but did not 
actually know face to face, assumed abnormal proportions 


in his imagination. The author of Peace and War seemed 
to him, in his own words, "not so much an ordinary 
mortal as a demi-god." At that time the personality and 
private life even the portrait of Tolstoi were almost un- 
known to the great public, and this was a further reason 
why Tchaikovsky pictured him as a sage and a magician. 
And lo, this Olympian being, this unfathomable man, 
descended from his cloud-capped heights and held out his 
hand to Tchaikovsky. 

Ten years later we find in Tchaikovsky's "diary" the 
following record of this meeting : 

" When first I met Tolstoi I was possessed by terror and 
felt uneasy in his presence. It seemed that this great 
searcher of human hearts must be able to read at a glance 
the inmost secrets of my own. I was convinced that not 
the smallest evil or weakness could escape his eye; therefore 
it would avail nothing to show him only my best side. If 
he be generous (and that is a matter of course), I reflected, 
he will probe the diseased area as kindly and delicately as 
a surgeon who knows the tender spots and avoids irritating 
them. If he is not so compassionate, he will lay his finger 
on the wound without more ado. In either case the 
prospect alarmed me. In reality nothing of the sort took 
place. The great analyst of human nature proved in his 
intercourse with his fellow-men to be a simple, sincere, 
whole-hearted being, who made no display of that omni- 
science I so dreaded. Evidently he did not regard me as 
a subject for dissection, but simply wanted to chat about 
music, in which at that time he was greatly interested. 
Among other things, he seemed to enjoy depreciating 
Beethoven, and even directly denying his genius. This is 
an unworthy trait in a great man. The desire to lower 
a genius to the level of one's own misunderstanding of him 
is generally a characteristic of narrow-minded people." 

Tolstoi not only wished to talk about music in general, 
but also to express his interest in Tchaikovsky's own com- 
positions. The latter was so much flattered that he asked 


Nicholas Rubinstein to arrange a musical evening at the 
Conservatoire in honour of the great writer. On this 
occasion the programme included the Andante from 
Tchaikovsky's string quartet in D major, during the per- 
formance of which Tolstoi burst into tears. 

" Never in the whole course of my life," wrote the com- 
poser in his diary, " did I feel so flattered, never so proud 
of my creative power, as when Leo Tolstoi, sitting by my 
side, listened to my Andante while the tears streamed 
down his face." 

Shortly after this memorable evening Tolstoi left 
Moscow, and wrote the following letter to Tchaikovsky 
from his country estate Yasnaya Polyana : 

"DEAR PETER ILICH, I am sending you the songs, 
having looked them through once more. In your hands 
they will become wonderful gems ; but, for God's sake, 
treat them in the Mozarto-Haydn style, and not after the 
Beethoven-Schumann-Berlioz school, which strives only for 
the sensational. How much more I had to tell you ! But 
there was no time, because I was simply enjoying myself. 
My visit to Moscow will always remain a most pleasant 
memory. I have never received a more precious reward 
for all my literary labours than on that last evening. How 
charming is (Nicholas) Rubinstein ! Thank him for me 
once more. Aye, and all the other priests of the highest 
of all arts, who made so pure and profound an impression 
upon me ! I can never forget all that was done for my 
benefit in that round hall. To which of them shall I 
send my works? That is to say, who does not possess 

" I have not looked at your things yet. As soon as 
I have done so, I shall write you my opinion whether 
you want it or not because I admire your talent. Good- 
bye, with a friendly hand-shake. 

" Yours, 



To this Tchaikovsky replied : 

"Moscow, December 24^, 1876 (January $th, 1877). 

" HONOURED COUNT, Accept my sincere thanks for 
the songs. I must tell you frankly that they have been 
taken down by an unskilful hand and, in consequence, 
nearly all their original beauty is lost The chief mistake 
is that they have been forced artificially into a regular 
rhythm. Only the Russian choral-dances have a regularly 
accentuated measure ; the legends (Bylini) have nothing 
in common with the dances. Besides, most of these songs 
have been written down in the lively key of D major, and 
this is quite out of keeping with the tonality of the 
genuine Russian folksongs, which are always in some in- 
definite key, such as can only be compared with the old 
Church modes. Therefore the songs you have sent are 
unsuitable for systematic treatment. I could not use them 
for an album of folksongs, because for this purpose the 
tunes must be taken down exactly as the people sing 
them. This is a difficult task, demanding the most deli- 
cate musical perception, as well as a great knowledge of 
musical history. With the exception of Balakirev and 
to a certain extent Prokounin I do not know anyone 
who really understands this work. But your songs can be 
used as symphonic material and excellent material too 
of which I shall certainly avail myself at some future 
time. I am glad you keep a pleasant recollection of your 
evening at the Conservatoire. Our quartet played as they 
have never done before. From which you must infer that 
one pair of ears, if they belong to such a great artist as 
yourself, has more incentive power with musicians than 
a hundred ordinary pairs. You are one of those authors 
of whom it may be said that their personality is as much 
beloved as their works. It was evident that, well as they 
generally play, our artists exerted themselves to the 
utmost for one they honoured so greatly. What I feel 
I must express : I cannot tell you how proud and happy 
it made me that my music could so touch you and carry 
you away. 

"Except Fitzenhagen, who cannot read Russian, your 
books are known to all the other members of the quartet. 


But I am sure they would be grateful if you gave them 
each one volume of your works. For myself, I am going 
to ask you to give me The Cossacks ; if not immediately, 
then later on, when next you come to Moscow an event 
to which I look forward with impatience. If you send 
your portrait to Rubinstein, do not forget me." 

With this letter personal intercourse between Tchai- 
kovsky and Count Tolstoi came to an end. It is remark- 
able that this was not against the composer's wishes, even 
if he did nothing actually to cause the rupture. The 
attentive reader will not fail to have gathered from the 
last words quoted from his diary that his acquaintance 
with Tolstoi had been something of a disappointment. 
It vexed him that "the lord of his intellect" should care 
to talk of "commonplace subjects unworthy of a great 
man." It hurt him to see all the little faults and failings 
of this divinity brought out by closer proximity. He 
feared to lose faith in him, and consequently to spoil his 
enjoyment of his works. This delight was at one time 
somewhat disturbed by his hyper-sensitiveness. In a 
letter to his brother, Tchaikovsky criticises Anna Karenina, 
which had then just begun to make its appearance in the 
Russky Vestnik. 

" After your departure," he writes, " I read Anna Ka- 
renina once more. Are you not ashamed to extol this 
revolting and commonplace stuff, which aspires to be 
psychologically profound? The devil take your psycho- 
logical truth when it leaves nothing but an endless waste 
behind it." 

Afterwards, having read the whole novel, Tchaikovsky 
repented his judgment, and acknowledged it to be one of 
Tolstoi's finest creations. 

In the presence of Tolstoi, Tchaikovsky felt ill at ease, 
in spite of the writer's kind and simple attitude towards 
his fellow-men. From a fear of wounding or displeasing 


him in any way, and also in consequence of his efforts not 
to betray his admiration and delight, the musician never 
quite knew how to behave to Tolstoi, and was always 
conscious of being somewhat unnatural of playing a 
part. This consciousness was intolerable to Tchaikovsky, 
consequently he avoided future intercourse with the great 

Greatly as Tchaikovsky admired Tolstoi the writer, he 
was never in sympathy with Tolstoi the philosopher. In 
his diary for 1886, writing of What I Believe, he says : 

" When we read the autobiographies or memoirs of great 
men, we frequently find that their thoughts and impres- 
sions and more especially their artistic sentiments are 
such as we ourselves have experienced and can therefore 
fully understand. There is only one who is incompre- 
hensible, who stands alone and aloof in his greatness Leo 
Tolstoi. Yet often I feel angry with him : I almost hate him. 
Why, I ask myself, should this man, who more than all 
his predecessors has power to depict the human soul with 
such wonderful harmony, who can fathom our poor intellect 
and follow the most secret and tortuous windings of our 
moral nature why must he needs appear as a preacher, 
and set up to be our teacher and guardian? Hitherto he 
has succeeded in making a profound impression by the 
recital of simple, everyday events. We might read between 
the lines his noble love of mankind, his compassion for our 
helplessness, our mortality and pettiness. How often have 
I wept over his words without knowing why ! . . . Per- 
haps because for a moment I was brought into contact 
through his medium with the Ideal, with absolute 
happiness, and with humanity. Now he appears as a 
commentator of texts, who claims a monopoly in the 
solution of all questions of faith and ethics. But through 
all his recent writings blows a chilling wind. We feel a 
tremor of fear at the consciousness that he, too, is a mere 
man ; a creature as much puffed up as ourselves about 
' The End and Aim of Life/ ' The Destiny of Man/ ' God/ 
and ' Religion ' ; and as madly presumptuous, as ineffectual 
as some ephemera born on a summer's day to perish at 


eventide. Once Tolstoi was a Demigod. Now he is only 
a Priest. . . . Tolstoi says that formerly, knowing nothing, 
he was mad enough to aspire to teach men out of his 
ignorance. He regrets this. Yet here he is beginning to 
teach us again. Then we must conclude he is no longer 
ignorant. Whence this self-confidence ? Is it not foolish 
presumption? The true sage knows only that he knows 

It is said that in nature peace often precedes a violent 
storm. This is twice observable in the life of Tchaikovsky. 
Let us look back to the period of his Government service, 
to the strenuous industry and zeal he displayed in his 
official duties in 1862 just before he took up the musical 
profession. Never was he more contented with his lot, or 
calmer in mind, than a few months before he entered the 
Conservatoire. It was the same at the present juncture. 
Shortly before that rash act, which cut him off for ever 
from Moscow, which changed all his habits and social 
relations, and was destined to be the beginning of a new 
life ; just at the moment, in fact, when we might look for 
some dissatisfaction with fate as a reason for this desperate 
resolve, Tchaikovsky was by no means out of spirits. On 
the contrary, in January and February 1877, he gave the 
impression of a man whose mind was at rest, who had 
no desires, and displayed more purpose and cheerfulness 
than before. This mood is very evident in a playful letter 
dated January 2nd (i4th), 1877 : 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"HONOURED MR. MODESTE ILICH, I do not know if you 
still remember me. I am your brother and a professor at 
the Moscow Conservatoire. I have also composed a few 
things : operas, symphonies, overtures, etc. Once upon a 
time you honoured me by your personal acquaintance. 
Last year we were abroad together and spent a time which 
I shall never forget. You used frequently to write me 


long and interesting letters. Now all this seems like a 
beautiful dream. . . . 

"Just before the holidays, my dear brotherkin, I made 
the acquaintance of Count Tolstoi. This pleased me very 
much. I have also received a kind and precious letter 
from his Grace. When he heard the ' Andante ' from my 
first quartet he shed tears of emotion. I am very proud 
of this, my dear brotherkin, and you really should not 
forget me, my dear brotherkin, because I have now become 
a great swell. Farewell, my brotherkin. 

" Your brother, 

" PETER." 

On February 2Oth (March 4th) the first performance of 
Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Swan Lake, took place. The 
composer was not to be blamed for the very moderate 
success of this work. The scenery and costumes were 
poor, while the orchestra was conducted by a semi- 
amateur, who had never before been confronted with so 
complicated a score. 

To his sister, A. Davidov. 

"February 22nd (March 6th). 

" I have lately found courage to appear as a conductor. 
I was very unskilful and nervous, but still I managed 
to conduct, with considerable success, my * Russo-Serbian 
March' in the Opera House. Henceforward I shall take 
every opportunity of conducting, for if my plan of a 
concert tour abroad comes off, I shall have to be my own 

On February 25th (March Qth) the symphonic fantasia 
Francesca da Rimini was performed for the first time at 
the tenth symphony concert in Moscow. It had a splendid 
reception, and was twice repeated during the month of 
March. In his notice of the concert Kashkin praises not 
only the music itself, but its inspired interpretation by 
Nicholas Rubinstein. 


In the course of this season Tchaikovsky began his 
Fourth Symphony. Probably the real reason why he lost 
his interest in the libretto of Othello is to be found in his 
entire devotion to this work. 

In March and April he began to suffer again from 
mental depression. This is evident from many of his 
letters written at this time. 

To I. A. Klimenko. 

" May %th (20^). 

" I am very much changed especially mentally sinfe 
we last met. There is no trace of gaiety and love of fun 
left in me. Life is terribly empty, wearisome and trivial. 
I am seriously considering matrimony as a lasting tie. 
The onejthing that remains unaltered is my love of com- 
posing^/ If things were only different, if I were not con- 
demned to run against obstacles at every step my work 
at the Conservatoire, for instance, which restricts me more 
each year I might accomplish something of value. But 
alas, I am chained to the Conservatoire ! " 

In the early spring of 1877 Modeste Tchaikovsky sent 
his brother a libretto based upon Nodier's novel, Ines de 
Las-Sierras. The musician was not attracted by it ; he 
had already another plan in view. In May he wrote to 
his brother : 

" Recently I was at Madame Lavrovsky's. 1 The con- 
versation fell upon opera libretti. X. talked a lot of 
rubbish, and made the most appalling suggestions. 
Madame Lavrovsky said nothing and only laughed. 
Suddenly, however, she remarked : ' What about Eugene 
Oniegin ? ' The idea struck me as curious, and I made no 
reply. Afterwards, while dining alone at a restaurant, her 
words came back to me, and, on consideration, the idea did 
not seem at all ridiculous. 1 soon made up my mind, and 
set off at once in search of Poushkin's works. I had some 
trouble in finding them. I was enchanted when I read the 

1 E. A. Lavrovsky, a famous singer and a teacher at the Conservatoire. 


work. I spent a sleepless night ; the result a sketch of a 
delicious opera based upon Poushkin's text. The next day 
I went to Shilovsky, who is now working post-haste at my 

" You have no notion how crazy I am upon this subject. 
How delightful to avoid the commonplace Pharaohs, 
Ethiopian princesses, poisoned cups, and all the rest of 
these dolls' tales ! Eugene Oniegin is full of poetry. I 
am not blind to its defects. I know well enough the work 
gives little scope for treatment, and will be deficient in 
stage effects ; but the wealth of poetry, the human quality 
and simplicity of the subject, joined to Poushkin's inspired 
verses, will compensate for what it lacks in other respects." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"May 2>]th (June 8M). 

"... The plan of my symphony is complete. I shall 
begin upon the orchestration at the end of the summer." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" At first I was annoyed by your criticism of^Oniegin, 
but it did not last long/O^et it lack scenic effect, let it 
be wanting in action ! fi am in love with the image of 
Tatiana, I am under me spell of Poushkin's verse, and 
I am drawn to compose the music as it were by some 
irresistible attraction. I am lost in the composition of the 



SOME time during the seventies, a violinist named 
Joseph Kotek entered Tchaikovsky's theory class 
at the Conservatoire. 
He was a pleasant-looking young man, good- 
hearted, enthusiastic, and a gifted virtuoso. His sympa- 
thetic personality and talented work attracted Tchaikov- 
sky's notice, and Kotek became a special favourite with 
him. Thus a friendship developed between master and 
pupil which was not merely confined to the class-room of 
the Conservatoire. 

Kotek was poor, and, on leaving the Conservatoire, was 
obliged to earn his living by teaching, before he began to 
tour abroad. 

At that time there lived in Moscow the widow of a 
well-known railway engineer, Nadejda Filaretovna von 
Meek. This lady asked Nicholas Rubinstein to recom- 
mend her a young violinist who could play with her at her 

Rubinstein recommended Kotek. No young musician 
could have desired a better post. Nadejda von Meek, 
with her somewhat numerous family, lived part of the 
year in Moscow and the rest abroad, or upon her beautiful 
estate in the south-west of Russia. Kotek, therefore, 
besides a good salary, enjoyed a chance of seeing some- 



thing of the world, and had also leisure to perfect himself 
on his instrument. 

Kotek soon discovered that Nadejda von Meek shared his 
own admiration for Tchaikovsky's genius. An amateur of 
music in general, she was particularly interested in Tchai- 
kovsky's works, a predilection which was destined to have 
considerable influence upon the composer's future career. 
Nadejda von Meek was not only interested in the com- 
poser, but also in the man. She endeavoured to learn 
something of his private life and character, and cross- 
questioned everyone who had come in contact with him. 
Consequently her acquaintance with Kotek was doubly 
agreeable, because he could tell her a great deal about 
the composer who had given her such keen artistic enjoy- 

From Kotek she learnt to know Tchaikovsky in his 
daily life, and her affection for him continually in- 
creased. Naturally she found out about his pecuniary 
needs and his longing for freedom, and in this way she 
formed a wish to take some active part in his private 
life, and to make it her first duty to allay his material 

Through Kotek she commissioned the composer, at a 
high fee, to arrange several of his own works for violin 
and piano. Gradually, through the medium of the young 
violinist, constant intercourse was established between the 
patroness and the composer. On his side Tchaikovsky, 
who liked whatever was original and unconventional, took 
the liveliest interest in all Kotek detailed to him about 
" the eccentricities " of Nadejda von Meek. Flattered and 
touched by the knowledge that he was a household name 
in the family of this generous admirer, Tchaikovsky sent 
her messages of grateful thanks by Kotek. Nadejda von 
Meek, elated that her favourite composer did not disdain 
to execute her commissions, returned similar expressions 
of gratitude and sympathy. 


This was the commencement of the unusual relations 
between Tchaikovsky and Nadejda von Meek. 

This friendship was of great importance in Tchaikov- 
sky's life, for it completely changed its material conditions 
and consequently influenced his creative activity ; more- 
over, it was so poetical, so out of the common, so different 
from anything that takes place in everyday society, that, in 
order to understand it, we must make closer acquaintance 
with the character of this new friend and benefactress. 

Nadejda Filaretovna von Meek was born January 2pth 
(February roth), 1831, in the village of Znamensk (in the 
Government of Smolensk). 1 Although her parents were 
not rich, yet she enjoyed the advantage of an excellent 
home education. Her father was an enthusiastic music- 
lover, and his taste descended to his daughter. She would 
listen to him playing the violin for hours together ; but 
as he grew older the parts were reversed, and Nadejda and 
her sister would play pianoforte duets to their father. In 
this way she acquired an extensive knowledge of musical 

No information is forthcoming as regards her general 
education. But from her voluminous correspondence with 
Tchaikovsky, his brother Modeste derives the impression 
that she was a proud and energetic woman, of strong con- 
victions, with the mental balance and business capacity of 
a man, and well able to struggle with adversity ; a woman, 
moreover, who despised all that was petty, commonplace, 
and conventional, but irreproachable in all her aspirations 
and in her sense of duty ; absolutely free from sentiment- 
ality in her relations with others, yet capable of deep feeling, 
and of being completely carried away by what was lofty 
and beautiful. 

In 1848 Nadejda Filaretovna married K. von Meek, an 
engineer employed upon the Moscow-Warsaw line, and 
with her marriage began a hard time in her life. As a 

1 Her parents' name was Frolovsky. 


devoted wife and mother, Frau von Meek had a great deal 
to endure, from which, however, she emerged triumphant 
in the end. 

" I have not always been rich," she says in one of 
her letters to Tchaikovsky ; " the greater part of my life 
I was poor, very poor indeed. My husband was an 
engineer in the Government service, with a salary of 
1500 roubles a year (^"150), which was all we had to live 
upon, with five children and my husband's family on our 
hands. Not a brilliant prospect, as you see ! I was nurse, 
governess, and sewing-maid to my children, and valet to 
my husband ; the housekeeping was entirely in my hands; 
naturally there was plenty of work, but I did not mind 
that. It was another matter which made life unbearable. 
Do you know, Peter Ilich, what it is to be in the Govern- 
ment service ? Do you know how, in that case, a man 
must forget he is a reasoning being, possessed of will- 
power and honourable instincts, and must become a 
puppet, an automaton ? It was my husband's position 
which I found so intolerable that finally I implored him to 
send in his resignation. To his remark that if he did so 
we should starve, I replied that we could work, and that 
we should not die of hunger. When at last he yielded to 
my desire, we were reduced to living upon twenty kopecks 
a day (5</.) for everything. It was hard, but I never 
regretted for a moment what had been done.'' 

Thanks to this energetic step, taken at the entreaty of 
his wife, Von Meek became engaged in private railway 
enterprises, and gradually amassed a fortune and put by 
some millions of roubles. 

In 1876 Nadejda was left a widow. Of eleven children, 
only seven lived with her. The others were grown up, and 
had gone out into the world. She managed her com- 
plicated affairs herself, with the assistance of her brother 
and her eldest son. But her chief occupation was the 
education of her younger children. 

After her husband's death, Nadejda von Meek gave up 


going into society ; she paid no more visits, and remained, 
in the literal sense of the word, "invisible" to all but the 
members of her domestic circle. 1 

Nadejda von Meek was a great lover of nature, and 
travelled constantly. She also read much, and was pas- 
sionately fond of music, especially of Tchaikovsky's works. 

The peculiar characteristic of the close and touching 
friendship between Nadejda von Meek and Tchaikovsky 
was the fact that they never saw each other except in a 
crowd an accidental glimpse at a concert or theatre. 
When they accidentally came face to face they passed as 
total strangers. To the end of their days they never 
exchanged a word, scarcely even a casual greeting. Their 
whole intercourse was confined to a brisk correspondence. 
Their letters, which have been preserved intact, and serve 
as the chief material for this part of my book, are so inter- 
esting, and throw such a clear light on the unique rela- 
tions between this man and woman, that the publication 
of the entire correspondence on both sides would be of 
profound interest. 

But the time has not yet come for such an undertaking. 
I may only use this valuable material (says Modeste 
Tchaikovsky) in so far as it forwards the chief aim of this 
book to tell the story of Tchaikovsky's life. I may 
only write of Nadejda von Meek as my brother's "best 
friend " and benefactress, without intruding upon her in- 
timate life which she has described in her frank, veracious, 
and lengthy letters. 

Shortly after she had sent Tchaikovsky a commission, 
through Kotek, for a violin and pianoforte arrangement, 
he received his first letter from Nadejda von Meek. 

1 She carried her seclusion to such lengths that Tchaikovsky's sister and 
brother-in-law, Alexandra and Leo Davidov, never saw Nadejda von Meek, 
although their daughter married one of her sons. Their friendly intercourse 
was carried on entirely by correspondence. Nicholas Rubinstein was almost 
the only visitor from the outside world whom she cared to receive. 


N. F. von Meek to Tchaikovsky. 

"December \%th (30^), 1876. 

" HONOURED SIR, Allow me to express my sincere 
thanks for the prompt execution of my commission. I 
deem it superfluous to tell you of the enthusiasm I feel for 
your music, because you are doubtless accustomed to 
receive homage of a very different kind to any which 
could be offered you by so insignificant a person, music- 
ally speaking, as myself. It might, therefore, seem ridicu- 
lous to you ; and my admiration is something so precious 
that I do not care to have it laughed at. Therefore I will 
only say one thing, which I beg you to accept as the literal 
truth that your music makes life easier and pleasanter to 

From Tchaikovsky to N. F. von Meek. 

" December i ^th (3 1 st\ 1876. 

" HONOURED MADAM, I thank you most cordially for 
the kind and flattering things you have written to me. On 
my part, I can assure you that, amid all his failures and 
difficulties, it is a great comfort to a musician to know that 
there exists a handful of people of whom you are one 
who are genuine and passionate lovers of music." 

Two months later he received another commission, and 
a longer letter, which paved the way to intimate friendship 
and lasting influence. 

N. F. von Meek to Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, February \$th (27^), 1877. 

" DEAR SIRPETER ILICH, I do not know how to ex- 
press my thanks for your kind indulgence for my impatience. 
Were it not for the real sympathy I feel for you, I should 
be afraid you might want to get rid of me ; but I value 
your kindness too greatly for this to happen. 

" I should like to tell you a great deal about my fantastic 
feelings towards you, but I am afraid of taking up your 
leisure, of which you have so little to spare. I will only say 


that this feeling abstract as it may be is one of the 
best and loftiest emotions ever yet experienced by any 
human being. Therefore you may call me eccentric, or 
mad, if you please ; but you must not laugh at me. All 
this would be ridiculous, if it were not so sincere and 

" Your devoted and admiring 

" N. F. VON MECK." 

From Tchaikovsky to N. F. von Meek. 

"February i6th (28^), 1877. 

hearty thanks for the too lavish fee with which you have 
repaid such a light task I am sorry you did not tell me 
all that was in your heart. I can assure you it would have 
been very pleasant and interesting, for I, too, warmly 
reciprocate your sympathy. This is no empty phrase. 
Perhaps I know you better than you imagine. 

" If some day you will take the trouble to write me all 
you want to say, I shall be most grateful. In any case I 
thank you from my heart for your expressions of apprecia- 
tion, which I value very highly." 

N. F. Meek to Tchaikovsky. 

" Moscow, March ^th (igth), 1877. 

" DEAR SIR PETER ILICH, Your kind answer to my 
letter proved a greater joy than I have experienced for a long 
while, but you know human nature : the more we have of 
a good thing, the more we want. Although I promised 
not to be a nuisance, I already doubt my own powers 
of refraining, because I am going to ask you a favour 
which may seem to you very strange ; but anyone who 
lives the life of an anchorite as I do must naturally end 
by regarding all that relates to society and the convention- 
alities of life as empty and meaningless terms. I do not 
know how you look upon these matters, but judging from 
our short acquaintance I do not think you will be dis- 
posed to criticise me severely ; if I am wrong, however, I 
want you to say so frankly, without circumlocution, and to 
refuse my request, which is this : give me one of your 


photographs. I have already two, but I should like one 
from you personally ; I want to read in your face the 
inspiration, the emotions, under the influence of which you 
write the music which carries us away to that world of 
ideal feelings, aspirations and desires which cannot be 
satisfied in life. How much joy, but how much pain is 
there in this music ! Nor would we consent to give up 
this suffering, for in it we find our highest capacities ; our 
happiness, our hopes, which life denies us. The Tempest 
was the first work of yours I ever heard. I cannot tell 
you the impression it made upon me ! For several days I 
was half out of my mind. I must tell you that I cannot 
separate the man from the musician, and, as the high 
priest of so lofty an art, I expect to find in him, more than 
in ordinary men, the qualities I most reverence. There- 
fore after my first impression of The Tempest I was 
seized with the desire to know something of the man who 
created it. I began to make inquiries about you, took 
every opportunity of hearing what was said of you, stored 
up every remark, every fragment of criticism, and I must 
confess that just those things for which others blamed you 
were charms in my eyes everyone to his taste ! Only a 
few days ago in casual conversation I heard one of 
your opinions, which delighted me, and was so entirely in 
accordance with my own that I felt suddenly drawn to 
you by more intimate and friendly ties. It is not inter- 
course that draws people together, so much as affinities 
of opinion, sentiment, and sympathy, so that one person 
may be closely united to another, although in some respects 
they remain strangers. 

" I am so much interested to know all about you that 
I could say at almost any hour where you are, and up to 
a certain point what you are doing. All I have observed 
myself, all I have heard of you from others the good and 
the bad delights me so much that I offer you my sin- 
cerest sympathy and interest. I am glad that in you the 
musician and the man are so completely and harmoniously 

" There was a time when I earnestly desired your per- 
sonal acquaintance ; but now I feel the more you fascinate 
me, the more I shrink from knowing you. It seems to me 


I could not then talk to you as I do now, although if we 
met unexpectedly I could not behave to you as to a 

" At present I prefer to think of you from a distance, to 
hear you speak and to be at one with you in your music. 
I am really unhappy never to have had the opportunity of 
hearing Francesca da Rimini ; I am impatient for the 
appearance of the pianoforte arrangement. 

" Forgive me all my effusions ; they cannot be of any 
use to you ; yet you will not regret that you have been 
able to infuse a little life especially by such ideal ways 
and means into one who, like myself, is so nearly at the 
end of her days as to be practically already dead. 

" Now one more * last request/ Peter Ilich. There is 
one particular number in your Oprichnik about which I am 
wildly enthusiastic. If it is possible, please arrange this 
for me as a funeral march for four hands (pianoforte). 
I am sending you the opera in which I have marked the 
passages I should like you to arrange. If my request 
is tiresome, do not hesitate to refuse ; I shall be regretful, 
but not offended. If you agree to it, take your own 
time, because it will be an indulgence I have no right 
to expect. Will you allow me to have your arrange- 
ments published, and if so, should I apply to Jurgenson 
or Bessel? 

" Furthermore, allow me in future to drop all formalities 
of * Dear Sir,' etc., in my letters to you ; they are not in 
my style, and I shall be glad if you will write to me with- 
out any of this conventional politeness. You will not 
refuse me this favour ? 

" Yours, with devotion and respect, 

" N. F. 

" P.S. Do not forget to answer my first request." 

Tchaikovsky to N. F. von Meek. 

" Moscow, March i6th (28^), 1877. 

" You are quite right, Nadejda Filaretovna, in thinking 
that I am able to understand your inward mind and 
temperament. I venture to believe that you have not made 
a mistake in considering me a kindred spirit. Just as you 


have taken the trouble to study public opinion about 
me, I, too, have lost no opportunity of learning some- 
thing about you and your manner of life. I have fre- 
quently been interested in you as a fellow -creature in 
whose temperament I recognised many features in common 
with my own. The fact that we both suffer from the same 
malady would alone suffice to draw us together. This 
malady is misanthropy; but a peculiar form of misan- 
thropy, which certainly does not spring from hatred or 
contempt for mankind. People who suffer from this com- 
plaint do not fear the evil which others may bring them, so 
much as the disillusionment, that craving for the ideal, 
which follows upon every intimacy. There was a time 
when I was so possessed by this fear of my fellow-creatures 
that I stood on the verge of madness. The circumstances 
of my life were such that I could not possibly escape and 
hide myself. I had to fight it out with myself, and God 
alone knows what the conflict cost me ! 

" I have emerged from the strife victorious, in so far that 
life has ceased to be unbearable. I was saved by work 
work which was at the same time my delight. Thanks to 
one or two successes which have fallen to my share, I have 
taken courage, and my depression, which used often to drive 
me to hallucinations and insanity, has almost lost its power 
over me. 

" From all I have just said, you will understand I am not 
at all surprised that, although you love my music, you do 
not care to know the composer. You are afraid lest you 
should miss in my personality all with which your ideal 
imagination has endowed me. You are right. I feel that 
on closer acquaintance you would not find that harmony 
between me and my music of which you have dreamt. 

" Accept my thanks for all your expressions of apprecia- 
tion for my music. If you only realised how good and 
comforting it is to a musician to know one soul feels so 
deeply and so intensely all that he experienced himself while 
planning and finishing his work ! I am indeed grateful for 
your kind and cordial sympathy. I will not say what is 
customary under the circumstances : that I am unworthy 
of your praise. Whether I write well or ill, I write from an 
irresistible inward impulse. I speak in music because I 


have something to say. My work is ' sincere,' and it is a 
great consolation to find you value this sincerity. 

" I do not know if the march will please you .... if 
not, do not hesitate to say so. Perhaps, later on, I might 
be more successful. 

" I send you a cabinet photograph ; not a very good one, 
however. I will be photographed again soon (it is an 
excruciating torture to me), and then I shall be very pleased 
to send you another portrait." 

From N. F. von Meek. 

"March iStk (30^), 1877. 

" Your march is so wonderful, Peter Ilich, that it throws 
me as I hoped into a state of blissful madness ; a con- 
dition in which one loses consciousness of all that is bitter 
and offensive in life. . . . Listening to such music, I seem 
to soar above all earthly thoughts, my temples throb, my 
heart beats wildly, a mist swims before my eyes and my 
ears drink in the enchantment of the music. I feel that all 
is well with me, and I do not want to be reawakened. Ah, 
God, how great is the man who has power to give others 
such moments of bliss ! " 

About the end of April, at a moment when Tchaikovsky 
found himself in great pecuniary straits, he received another 
commission from his benefactress. This time Frau von 
Meek asked for an original work for violin and pianoforte, 
and proposed a very extravagant fee in return. 

Tchaikovsky replied as follows : 

"May ist (i 3 M), 1877. 

obstinate denials on the part of a friend who is well known 
to both of us, 1 I have good reason to suppose that your letter, 
which I received early this morning, is due to a well- 
intentioned ruse on his part. Even your earlier commis- 
sions awoke in me a suspicion that you had more than 
one reason for suggesting them : on the one hand, you 

1 J. Kotek. 



really wished to possess arrangements of some of my 
works; on the other knowing my material difficulties 
you desired to help me through them. The very high 
fees you sent me for my easy tasks forced me to this con- 
clusion. This time I am convinced that the second reason 
is almost wholly answerable for your latest commission. 
Between the lines of your letter I read your delicacy of 
feeling and your kindness, and was touched by your way 
of approaching me. At the same time, in the depths of 
my heart, I felt such an intense unwillingness to comply 
with your request that I cannot answer you in the affirma- 
tive. I could not bear any insincerity or falsehood to 
creep into our mutual relations. This would undoubtedly 
have been the case had I disregarded my inward prompt- 
ings, manufactured a composition for you without pleasure 
or inspiration, and received from you an unsuitable fee in 
return. Would not the thought have passed through your 
mind that I was ready to undertake any kind of musical 
work provided the fee was high enough ? Would you not 
have had some grounds for supposing that, had you been 
poor, I should not have complied with your requests ? 
Finally, our intercourse is marred by one painful circum- 
stance in almost all our letters the question of money 
crops up. Of course it is not a degradation for an artist 
to accept money for his trouble ; but, besides labour, a 
work such as you now wish me to undertake demands a 
certain degree of what is called inspiration, and at the 
present moment this is not at my disposal. I should be 
guilty of artistic dishonesty were I to abuse my technical 
skill and give you false coin in exchange for true only 
with a view to improving my pecuniary situation. 

"At the present moment I am absorbed in the symphony 1 
I began during the winter. I should like to dedicate it to 
you, because I believe you would find in it -an prhr> Q{ yfinr. .,. 
most intimate thoughts and emotions. I Just now any 
other work worrier be a burden work, I mean, that would 
demand a certain mood and change of thought. Added 
to this, I am in a very nervous, worried and irritable state, 
highly unfavourable to composition, and even my sym- 
phony suffers in consequence." 

1 No. 4 in F minor. 


Tchaikovsky's refusal did not offend Frau von Meek ; 
on the contrary, she was deeply grateful for his honour- 
able and straightforward explanation. The incident only 
served to strengthen the friendship between them, and the 
result of their closer and more outspoken intercourse was 
a remittance of 3,000 roubles to pay his debts. Having 
made herself his sole creditor, she now became his bene- 
factress and patroness, and from this time forward took 
charge of his material welfare. But not only in this way 
did she warm and brighten the course of Tchaikovsky's 
life ; of greater value was the deep sympathy in which her 
generosity had its root, a sympathy which shows in every 
line of her letters. 

" I am looking after you for my own sake," she wrote. 
" My most precious beliefs and sympathies are in your 
keeping; your very existence gives me so much enjoyment, 
for life is the better for your letters and your music ; 
finally, I want to keep you for the service of the art 
I adore, so that it may have no better or worthier acolyte 
than yourself. So, you see, my thought for your welfare 
is purely egotistical and, so long as I can satisfy this wish, 
I am happy and grateful to you for accepting my help." 


To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" GLIEBOVO, June z^rd (July $th), 1877. 

"DEAR ANATOL, You are right in supposing that 
I am hiding something from you, but you have made a 
false guess as to what this 'something' really is. Here 
is the whole matter. At the end of May an event took 
place which I kept from you and from all my family 
and friends, so that you should none of you worry your- 
selves with unnecessary anxieties as to whether I had done 
wisely or not. I wanted to get the business over and confess 


it afterwards. I am going to be married. I became engaged 
at the end of May, and meant to have the wedding early in 
July, without saying a word to anyone. Your letter shook 
my resolve. I could not avoid meeting you, and I felt 
I could not play a comedy of lies as to my reason for 
not being able to go to Kamenka. Besides I came to the 
conclusion that it was not right to get married without 
Dad's blessing. So I decided to make a clean breast 
of it. The enclosed letter is for Dad. Do not worry 
about me. I have thought it over, and I am taking this 
important step in life with a quiet mind. You will realise 
that I am quite calm when I tell you with the prospect 
of marriage before me I have been able to write two- 
thirds of my opera. 1 My bride is no longer very young, 
but quite suitable in every respect, and possessed of one 
great attraction : she is in love with me. She is poor, and 
her name is Antonina Ivanovna Milioukov. I now invite 
you to my wedding. You and Kotek will be the sole 
witnesses of the ceremony. Ask father not to say a word 
about it to anyone. I will write to Sasha and to the rest 
of my brothers myself." 

To his father, I. P. Tchaikovsky. 

" GLIEBOVO, y#;*d? 2$rd (July $th\ 1877. 

"DEAR FATHER, Your son Peter intends to marry. 
But as he must not be united without your blessing upon 
his new life, he writes to ask for it. My bride is poor, but 
a good, honourable woman, who is deeply attached to me. 
Dear Dad, you know a man does not rush thoughtlessly 
into marriage at my age, so do not be anxious. I am sure 
my future wife will do all she can to make my life peace- 
ful and happy. . . . Take care of yourself, dear, and write 
to me at once. I kiss your hands." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"Moscow, July yd (15^), 1877., 

"First of all I must tell you that at the end of May I 
became engaged, to my own surprise. This is how it 

1 Eugene Oniegin. 


came about. One day I received a letter from a girl 
whom I had already seen and met. I learnt from this 
letter that for a long time past she had honoured me with 
her love. The letter was so warm and sincere that I 
decided to answer it, which I had always carefully avoided 
doing in other cases of the kind. Without going into the 
details of this correspondence, I will merely say that I 
ended by accepting her invitation to visit her. Why did 
I do this? Now it seems as though some hidden force 
drew me to this girl. When we met I told her again that 
I could only offer gratitude and sympathy in exchange 
for her love. But afterwards I began to reflect upon the 
folly of my proceedings. If I did not care for her, if I did 
not want to encourage her affections, why did I go to see 
her, and where will all this end ? From the letters which 
followed, I came to the conclusion that, having gone so 
far, I should make her really unhappy and drive her to 
some tragic end were I to bring about a sudden rupture. 
I found myself confronted by a painful dilemma : either I 
must keep my freedom at the expense of this woman's 
ruin (this is no empty word, for she loved me intensely), 
or I must marry. I could but choose the latter course. 
Therefore I went one evening to my future wife and told 
her frankly that I could not love her, but that 1 would be 
a devoted and grateful friend ; I described to her in detail 
my character, my irritability, my nervous temperament, 
my misanthropy finally, my pecuniary situation. Then 
I asked her if she would care to be my wife. Her answer 
was, of course, in the affirmative. The agonies I have 
endured since that evening defy description. It is very 
natural. To live thirty - seven years with an innate 
antipathy to matrimony, and then suddenly, by force 
of circumstances, to find oneself engaged to a woman with 
whom one is not in the least in love is very painful. To 
give myself time to consider and grow used to the idea, I 
decided not to upset my original plans, but to spend a 
month in the country just the same. I did so, and the 
quiet, rural life among congenial friends, surrounded by 
beautiful scenery, has had a very beneficial effect. I con- 
soled myself with the thought that we cannot escape our 
fate, and there was something fatalistic in my meeting 


with this girl. Besides, I know from experience that the 
terrible, agitating unknown often proves beneficial and vice 
versa. How often we are disappointed in the happiness 
which we have expected and striven to attain ! Let come 
what come may ! 

"Now a few words as to my future wife. Her name 
is Antonina Ivanovna Milioukov, and she is twenty-eight. 
She is rather good-looking, and of spotless reputation. She 
keeps herself, and lives alone from a feeling of independ- 
ence although she has a very affectionate mother. She 
is quite poor and of moderate education, but apparently 
very good and capable of a loyal attachment. 

" During the month of July I finished a large part of the 
opera, and might have accomplished more but for my 
agitated frame of mind. I have never regretted my choice 
of subject for an instant. I cannot understand how it is 
that you who love music cannot appreciate Poushkin, who, 
by the power of his genius, often oversteps the limitations 
of poetry and enters the illimitable sphere of music. This 
is no mere phrase. Apart from the substance and form of 
his verses, they have another quality, something in their 
sequence of sound which penetrates to our inmost soul. 
This ' something ' is music. 

" Wish that I may not lose courage in the new life which 
lies before me. God knows I am filled with the best of 
intentions towards the future companion of my life, and if 
we are both unhappy I shall not be to blame. My con- 
science is clear. If I am marrying without love, it is 
because circumstances have left me no alternative. I gave 
way thoughtlessly to her first expressions of love ; I ought 
never to have replied to them. But having once encouraged 
her affection by answering her letter and visiting her, I was 
bound to act as I have done. But, as I say, my conscience 
is clear : I have neither lied to her, nor deceived her. 
I told her what she could expect from me, and what she 
must not count upon receiving." 

Tchaikovsky sent a similar intimation to his sister at 
Kamenka, and to his brother Modeste. As he had antici- 
pated, his father was the only person who really rejoiced at 
the news. He replied as follows : - 


From I. P. Tchaikovsky. 

" PAVLOVSK, June 27 th (July th\ 1877. 

" MY DEAR SON PETER, Toly gave me your letter in 
which you ask for my blessing upon your marriage. This 
news delighted me so that I was ready to jump for joy. 
God be praised ! The Lord's blessing be upon you ! I 
have no doubt that your chosen bride is equally worthy of 
the same good wishes which your father an old man 
of eighty-three and all your family bestow upon you ; 
and not your family only, but all who have come in contact 
with you. 

" Is it not so, dear Antonina Ivanovna ? After yesterday 
you must give me leave to call you my God-sent daughter, 
and to bid you love your chosen husband, for he is indeed 
worthy of it. And you, dear bridegroom, let me know the 
day and hour of your wedding, and I will come myself (if 
you agree to it) to give you my blessing. . . ." 

Of all Tchaikovsky's family, Anatol was the only one 
able to go to Mocsow, and he arrived too late to prevent 
his brother from taking the rash and foolish step he had 
decided upon. 

The marriage took place on July 6th (i8th). 

I shall not attempt to follow step by step the whole sad 
story of my brother's marriage. First of all, I do not 
possess the necessary sense of impartiality; secondly, I 
have no evidence for the other side of the case, nor 
any hope of procuring it in the future ; and thirdly, 
I do not wish to hurt the legitimate sensitiveness of 
several people still living, I can only say that from the 
first hour of his married life Tchaikovsky had to pay the 
penalty of his rash and ill-considered act and was pro- 
foundly miserable. 

On the evening of the wedding-day the newly married 
couple left for St. Petersburg and returned to Moscow at 
the end of a week. They then paid a short visit to the 
bride's mother, who lived in the country, after which it was 


settled that Tchaikovsky should go alone to Kamenka, 
while his wife prepared the new home in Moscow. 

On July 26th (August 7th) he wrote to N. F. von Meek : 
" I leave in an hour's time. A few days longer, and I swear 
I should have gone mad." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, August 2nd (14^), 1877. 

" If I were to say that I had returned to my normal 
condition, it would not be true. But this is impossible. 
Only time can cure me, and I have no doubt that gradu- 
ally I shall become reconciled. I am quiet here, and begin 
to look the future in the face without fear. One thing 
annoys me; I am absolutely incapable of taking up my 
work. Yet it would be the finest remedy for my morbid 
state of mind. I must hope that the hunger for work will 
return ere long." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"August nth (2$rd), 1877. 

" I am much better. ... I feel sure I shall now triumph 
over my difficult and critical situation. I must struggle 
against my feeling of estrangement from my wife and try 
to keep all her good qualities in view. For undoubtedly 
she has good qualities. 

" I have so far improved that I have taken in hand the 
orchestration of your symphony. One of my brothers, 
whose judgment I value, is very pleased with such parts of 
it as I have played to him. I hope you will be equally 
pleased. That is the chief thing." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, August i2th (24^), 1877. 

" You are right, Nadejda Filaretovna, there are times in 
life when one must fortify oneself to endure and create for 
oneself some kind of joy, however shadowy. Here is a 
case in point : either live with people and know that you 
are condemned to every kind of misery, or escape some- 
where and isolate yourself from every possibility of inter- 


course, which, for the molt part, only leads to pain and 
grief. My dream has always been to work as long as I had 
power to do so, and when I felt convinced that I could do 
no more, to hide myself somewhere, far away from the 
strife, and look on at the agitations of the human ant-hill. 
This dream of being at rest in some remote corner has 
been the great consolation and goal of my life. Now, by 
my own act, I have deprived myself of all hope of ever 
reaching this harbour of refuge. . . . My new tie forces 
me into the arena of life there is no escape from it. As 
you say, there is nothing to be done, but to set to and 
create some artificial happiness. . . . 

" Our symphony progresses. The first movement will 
give me a great deal of trouble as regards orchestration. 
It is very lo^^anctcom^tfeited ; at the same~time~r^oh- 
sider it the^best movement The three remaining move- 
ments are very simple, and it will be pleasant and easy to 
orchestrate them. The Scherzo will have quite a new 
orchestral effect, from which I expect great things. At 
first only the string orchestra is heard, always pizzicato. 
In the triojhe wood- wind plays by itself, and at the end 
of the" Scherzo all three groups of instruments join in 
a short phrase. I think this effect will be interesting." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"K.AMENKA, August $Qth (September nth), 1877. 

"The weather grows more and more autumnal. The 
fields are bare, and it is time I took my departure. My 
wife writes that our rooms are now ready. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, September i2th (24^), 1877. 

" I have not yet been to the Conservatoire. My classes 
only begin to-day. The arrangements of our home leave 
nothing to be desired. My wife has done all she possibly 
could to please me. It is really a comfortable and pretty 
home. All is clean, new and artistic. 

"The orchestration of the first movement of our symphony 
is quite finished. Now I shall give myself a few days to 


grow used to my new life. In any case the symphony will 
not be ready before the end of the winter." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, September \2th (24^), 1877. 

". . . My wife came to meet me. Poor woman, she has 
gone through some miserable experiences in getting our 
home ready; while awaiting my arrival she has had to 
change her cook twice. She had to take one into the 
police court. Twice she was robbed, and for the last few 
days she has been obliged to remain at home all day, not 
daring to leave the place in the care of the cook. But our 
home pleases me ; it is pretty, comfortable, and not alto- 
gether wanting in luxury." 

Shortly after writing this letter Tchaikovsky's health 
broke down. According to a telegram which he sent to 
Petersburg, he left Moscow suddenly on September 24th 
(October 6th) in a condition bordering upon insanity. 

Anatol says that his brother was scarcely recognisable 
when he met him on the platform of the Nicholas Station 
in Petersburg ; his face had entirely changed in the course 
of a month. From the station he was taken to the nearest 
hotel, where, after a violent nervous crisis, he became un- 
conscious, in which state he remained for forty-eight hours. 
When this crisis was over, the doctors ordered a complete 
change of life and scene as the sole chance of recovery. 
Anatol went immediately to Moscow, hastily arranged his 
brother's affairs, left his wife to the care of her family, for 
the time being, and then took the invalid away as soon as 

Not once in the whole course of his life neither at 
the time nor subsequently did Tchaikovsky, in speech 
or writing, lay the blame for this unhappy incident upon 
his wife. Following his example, therefore, I cannot com- 
plete this chapter without exonerating her from every 
shadow of responsibility for all that happened. 


Tchaikovsky himself declared that "she always behaved 
honourably and with sincerity," never consciously deceived 
him and was "unwittingly and involuntarily" the cause of 
all her husband's misery. 

As to Tchaikovsky's treatment of his wife, the sternest 
judge must admit that it was frank and honourable and 
that he did not attempt to mislead her. Both of them 
believed, under the influence of an abnormal and fatal 
exaltation, that, after self-revelation, they understood each 
other and were honestly convinced they would get on 
together. It was not until they entered into closer relation- 
ship that they discovered, to their horror, they were far 
from having told each other all ; that a gulf of misunder- 
standing lay between them which could never be bridged 
over, that they had been wandering as it were in a dream, 
and had unintentionally deceived each other. 

Under the circumstances separation was the only solu- 
tion of the difficulty, the sole method of regaining their 
peace of mind and of saving Tchaikovsky's life. 

On October 3rd (i5th) the composer reached Berlin, 
accompanied by his brother Anatol. The dangerous crisis 
in his illness was over and a slow convalescence began. 


Tchaikovsky selected Clarens as his first resting-place, 
and settled down at the Villa Richelieu on the shore of the 
Lake of Geneva. 

He had only money enough to last five or six weeks ; but 
at the end of that time he had no inclination nor was he 
in a condition to return to his work in Moscow. His 
constitution was so shaken and impaired by his nervous 
illness that at least a year's rest was necessary for his com- 
plete restoration. 

There was some hope of getting a little money in the 


winter, if the Principal of the Petersburg Conservatoire, 
Karl Davidov, appointed him delegate for the forthcoming 
exhibition in Paris. But the chance was very uncertain, 
and even if he were nominated, the office was not very well 
suited to Tchaikovsky, because it demanded not only great 
energy, but constant social intercourse, whereas the con- 
dition of his health needed complete repose. 

All the same, Tchaikovsky would have been glad of the 
appointment as affording the one means of remaining longer 

This anxiety as to his future counteracted in some 
degree the benefit derived from the quiet and solitude of 
Clarens. To escape from his difficulties Tchaikovsky was 
obliged to have recourse to the kindness of Nicholas 
Rubinstein and Nadejda von Meek. 

Rubinstein interested himself in the matter of the 
delegation, and wrote as follows : 

" It has been decided to send you all the money which 
is left over from the expenses of your classes in monthly 
instalments. Try to calm yourself; take care of your 
health, and fear nothing. You are far too highly valued 
as a musician to be compromised by secondary consider- 

Tchaikovsky replied, expressing his gratitude and re- 
porting the progress of his opera. 

" The first act of Eugene Oniegin will soon be in your 
hands," he writes. " I shall be very happy if it pleases you. 
I composed it with great enthusiasm. A performance at 
the Conservatoire is just my ideal. The opera is intended 
for a modest setting and a small theatre." 

From Nicholas Rubinstein to Tchaikovsky. 

" FRIEND PETER, I am very glad you are getting better 
and gradually returning to work. I am full of curiosity about 
Eugene Oniegin. Be so kind as to assign the parts. Even 


if they have to be changed afterwards, it is important to 
know your views. Can I also count on the Symphony? 

" I have seen Frau von Meek. We talked a great deal 
about you. I think she will send you another commission, 
or money direct." 

Rubinstein was not mistaken. Even before she received 
Tchaikovsky's letter asking for assistance, Nadejda von 
Meek had decided to take upon herself the responsibility 
of his maintenance, and asked him to accept an annual 
allowance of 6,000 roubles (.600). In reply to his request, 
which was accompanied by many apologies, she wrote as 
follows : 

". . . . Are we really such strangers? Do you not 
realise how much I care for you, how I wish you all good ? 
In my opinion it is not the tie of sex or kindred which 
gives these rights, but the sense of mental and spiritual 
communion. You know how many happy moments you 
have given me, how grateful I am, how indispensable you 
are to me, and how necessary it is that you should remain 
just as you were created ; consequently what I do is not 
done for your sake, but for my own. Why should you 
spoil my pleasure in taking care of you, and make me feel 
that I am not very much to you after all ? You hurt me. 
If I wanted something from you, of course you would give 
it me is it not so ? Very well, then we cry quits. Do not 
interfere with my management of your domestic economy, 
Peter Ilich. 

" I do not know what you think, but for my part I 
would rather we kept our friendship and correspondence 
to ourselves. Therefore in talking to Nicholas Rubinstein 
I spoke of you as a complete stranger ; I inquired, as 
though quite in the dark, your reasons for leaving Moscow, 
where you had gone, how long you were going to remain 
away, and so on. He was anxious, I thought, to make me 
take a warmer interest in you, but I kept to the part 
of a disinterested admirer of your talents." 

Thus, thanks to his new friend, Tchaikovsky became 
an independent man as regards his material welfare, and 


a new life opened out before him, such as hitherto he had 
only imagined as an unrealisable dream. He had attained 
that freedom of existence which was indispensable to his 
creative activity. Now, at last, he was at liberty to employ 
his time as he pleased, and to arrange his manner of living 
to suit his own tastes and requirements. 


In consequence of this entire change of circumstances, 
Tchaikovsky abandoned his original idea of spending 
the whole winter in Clarens. In thanking his benefactress 
for her generous help, he says : 

" I shall only remain here until thanks to you I 
receive the wherewithal to go to Italy, which calls me 
with all its force. It is very quiet and very beautiful here, 
but somewhat depressing. 

"You say liberty is unattainable, and that there is 
no method of procuring it. Perhaps it is impossible to be 
completely free ; but even this comparative freedom is the 
greatest joy to me. At least I can work. Work was 
impossible in the vicinity of one who was so much to 
me externally, while remaining a stranger to my inner 
life. I have been through a terrible ordeal, and it is 
marvellous that my soul still lives, though deeply wounded." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" CLARENS, October 2$th (November 6fA), 1877. 
"Your letter is so warm and friendly that it would 
suffice of itself to reawaken in me the desire for life, and to 
help me to endure all its miseries. I thank you for every- 
thing, my invaluable friend. I do not suppose that I shall 
ever have an opportunity of proving that I am ready 
to make any sacrifice for you in return ; I think you will 
never be compelled by circumstances to demand any 
supreme service from my friendship ; therefore I can only 


please and serve you by means of my music. Nadejda 
Filaretovna, every note which comes from my pen in future 
is dedicated to you ! To you I owe this reawakened love 
of work, and I will never forget for a moment that you 
have made it possible to carry on my career. Much, much 
still remains for me to do ! Without false modesty, I may 
tell you that all I have done so far seems to me poor 
and imperfect compared with what I can, must, and will do 
in the future. 

" I like my present quarters very well. Apart?- from the 
glorious view of the lake and mountains of Savoy, with 
the Dent du Midi, which I get from my windows, I am 
pleased with the villa itself. . . . But I must confess I am 
continually haunted by the thought of a long visit to 
Italy, so that I have decided to start for Rome with my 
brother about a fortnight hence. Afterwards we shall go 
on to Naples or Sorrento. After a few days amid the 
mountains, have you never had the yearning, from which I 
think no northerner ever escapes, for wide horizons and 
the unbounded expanse of the plains? . . . Gradually I 
am going back to my work, and I can now definitely say 
that our Symphony will be finished by December at the 
latest, so you will be able to hear it this season. May this 
music, which is so closely bound up with the thought of 
you, speak to you and tell you that I love you with all my 
heart and soul, O my best and incomparable friend ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"CLARENS, October 30^ (November iiffy, 1877. 

"... Whenever I think calmly over all I have been 
through, I come to the conclusion that there is a Provi- 
dence who has specially cared for me. Not only have I 
been saved from ruin which seemed at one time inevit- 
able but things are now well with me, and I see ahead 
the dawn-light of happiness and success. As regards reli- 
gion, I must confess I have a dual temperament, and to 
this day I have found no satisfactory solution of the 
problem. On the one hand, my reason obstinately refuses 
to accept the dogmatic teaching either of the orthodox 
Russian, or of any other Christian Church. For instance, 


however much I may think about it, I can see no sense in 
the doctrine of retribution and reward. How is it possible 
to draw a hard-and-fast line between the sheep and the 
goats? What is to be rewarded and what is to be 
punished ? Equally impossible to me is the belief in im- 
mortality. Here I am quite in accord with the pantheistic 
view of immortality and the future life. 

" On the other hand, my whole upbringing, customs of 
childhood, and the poetical image of Christ and all that 
belongs to His teaching, are so deeply implanted in me, 
that involuntarily I find myself calling upon Him in my 
grief and thanking Him in my happiness." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"FLORENCE, November 6th (iSth), 1877. 

" I am ashamed, not without reason, to have to write 
you a melancholy letter. At first I thought I would not 
write at all, but the desire to talk with you a little got the 
upper hand. It is impossible to be insincere with you, 
even when I have the best of reasons for concealing my 

" We came here quite unexpectedly. I was so unwell in 
Milan that I decided to remain a day here, which our 
tickets permit us to do. My indisposition is not of such 
great importance. The real trouble is my depression a 
wearing, maddening depression, which never leaves me for 
a moment. In Clarens, where I was living an absolutely 
quiet life, I was often overcome by melancholy. Not being 
able to account for these attacks of depression, I attri- 
buted them to the mountains. What childishness ! I 
persuaded myself that I need only cross the frontiers of 
Italy, and a life of perfect happiness would begin ! Non- 
sense ! Here I feel a hundred times worse. The weather 
is glorious, the days are as warm as in July, there is some- 
thing to see, something to distract me, and yet I am tor- 
mented by an overwhelming, gigantic depression. How 
to account for it I do not know. If I had not asked all 
my correspondents to address their letters to me in Rome, 
I think I should not travel any further. I must get as 
far as that, it is clear, but I am not fit just now for a 


tourist's life. ... I have not come here for sight-seeing, 
but to cure myself by work. At the present moment it 
seems to me impossible to work in Italy, especially in 
Rome. I regret terribly the peace and quiet of Clarens, 
where I had made a successful effort to return to my work, 
and I am seriously wondering whether it might not be 
better to return there. . . . What will become of me when 
my brother goes ? I cannot think of that moment with- 
out a shudder. But I neither wish, nor am I able, to 
return to Russia. You see how I keep turning in this 
cercle vicieux. . . " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" ROME, November ^th (19^), 1877. 

"... We arrived in Rome quite early this morning. 
This time I entered the famous city with a troubled heart. 
How true it is that we do not draw our happiness from our 
surroundings, but from our inward being! This has been 
sufficiently proved by my present tour in Italy. 

"... I am still quite a sick man. I cannot bear the 
least noise as yet. Yesterday in Florence, and to-day in 
Rome, every vehicle that rolled by threw me into an insane 
rage ; every sound, every cry exasperated my nerves. The 
crowds of people flowing through the narrow streets annoy 
me so that every stranger I meet seems to me an enemy. 
Now, for the first time, I begin to realise the folly of 
my journey to Rome. My brother and I have just been 
to St. Peter's : all I have gained by it is overwhelming 
physical fatigue. Of the noisy streets, the bad air, the 
dirt, I will say nothing. I know my morbid condition 
makes me see only the bad side of Rome in all its hateful- 
ness, while the beauties of the city seem veiled to my 
eyes ; but this is a poor consolation. Yesterday I dis- 
cussed with my brother what we should do next, and 
came to this conclusion. It is evident that I cannot con- 
tinue my tour. If I feel ill in Florence and Rome, it will 
be just as bad in Naples. A fortnight hence my brother 
must leave me ; in order somewhat to prolong our time 
together, I have decided to accompany him as far as 
Vienna. I have also come to the conclusion that I ought 


not to be left alone. Therefore I have sent for my servant, 
who is leading an idle life in Moscow. I shall await his 
coming in Vienna, and then return to Clarens, where I 
think of staying. 

" To-morrow, or the next day, we shall go to Venice for 
a few days before starting for Vienna. Venice is quiet, 
and I can work there ; and it is very important I should 
do so. . . ." 

To Nicholas Rubinstein. 

"ROME, November %th (20^), 1877. 

" I am agitated by uncertainty as to whether the first 
act 1 will please you or not. Pray do not give it up on 
your first impressions : they are often so deceptive. I 
wrote that music with such love and delight ! The follow- 
ing numbers were specially dear to me: (i) the first duet 
behind the scenes, which afterwards becomes the quartet ; 
(2) Lensky's Arioso ; (3) the scene in Tatiana's room ; (4) 
the chorus of maidens. If you can tell me it pleases you 
and Albrecht (I value his opinion so highly), it will make 
me very happy. As soon as I have finished the first scene 
of the second act and sent it to you, I will attack the Sym- 
phony with all zeal, and so I implore you to keep a place 
for it at the Symphony Concerts. 

" I thank you, dear friend, with all my heart for the many 
things you have done for me, and for your kind letter, in 
which I recognise with joy your loyal friendship. But, for 
God's sake, do not summon me back to Moscow before 
next September. I know I shall find nothing there but 
terrible mental suffering." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"VENICE, November nth (23^, 1877. 
Rome compensated for all my troubles, but it was also 
rather fatiguing. In the morning I had to go in search of 
the Symphony (No. 4), which had been sent from Clarens. 
I inquired at the post office, at the station, at various other 
offices. Everywhere they received me politely, looked for 

1 Of Eugene Oniegin. 


the parcel, and failed to find it. Imagine my anxiety. If 
the Symphony had been lost, I should never have had the 
energy to rewrite it from memory. At last I requested 
that it should be diligently sought for, and behold the 
parcel was discovered ! It was a great comfort. 

" Afterwards I visited the Capitol with my brother. I 
found much that was interesting here and which touched 
me directly for instance, the statue of the Dying Gladi- 
ator. I cannot say the same of the Venus of the Capitol, 
which still leaves me quite cold, as on my first visit. At 
two o'clock we went to the Palace of the Caesars, and 
looked into the Villa Borghese as we passed, to see the 
collection of pictures. Here, too, I was capable of taking 
in some artistic impressions. One picture particularly 
attracted my attention the Death of a Saint (Jerome, if I 
am not mistaken), by Domenicchino. But I must tell you 
frankly that I am no enthusiastic amateur of pictures, and 
I lack any profound insight into the subtleties of painting 
or sculpture. I soon get tired in the galleries. Among a 
number of pictures there are seldom more than two or 
three which remain firmly fixed in my mind's eye; but 
these I study in every detail, and endeavour to enter into 
their spirit, while I run through the others with a super- 
ficial glance. . . . Besides the picture by Domenicchino, 
some of Raphael's pleased me very much, especially the 
portraits of Caesar Borgia and Sixtus V. 1 

" The grandest, the most overpowering, of all the sights 
I saw was the Palace of the Caesars. What gigantic pro- 
portions, what wealth of beauty ! At every step we are 
reminded of the past ; we endeavour to reconstruct it and 
the further we explore it, the more vivid are the gorgeous 
pictures which crowd the imagination. The weather was 
lovely. Every moment we came upon some fresh glimpse 
of the city, which is as dirty as Moscow, but far more 
picturesquely situated, and possessing infinitely greater 

1 The condition of Tchaikovsky's health is probably accountable for many 
errors in this letter. In 1877 the pictures of which he speaks were not in the 
Villa^ but in the Palazzo Borghese. Domenicchino's picture was in the 
Vatican. The portraits of Caesar Borgia and Sixtus V. were not by Raphael. 
The latter was not made Pope until sixty-five years after the death of the 
celebrated painter. 


historical interest. Quite close by are the Colosseum and 
the ruined Palace of Constantine. 1 It is all so grand, 
so beautiful, so rare ! I am very glad to have left Rome 
under this ineffaceable impression. I wanted to write 
to you in the evening, but after packing I was too tired to 
move a finger. 

"At six o'clock this morning we arrived in Venice. 
Although I had not been able to close my eyes all night, 
and although it was still quite dark and cold when we got 
here, I was charmed with the characteristic beauty of the 
place. We are staying at the Grand Hotel. In front 
of our windows is S. Maria della Salute, a graceful, pretty 
building on the Canale Grande." 

ToN.F. Von Meek. 
"VENICE, November i6th (28^), 1877. 

"... I have received a very comforting letter from my 
sister, and am busy with the orchestration of the first scene 
of the second act of my Oniegin. 

" Venice is a fascinating city. Every day I discover 
some fresh beauty. Yesterday we went to the Church 
of the Frati, in which, among other art treasures, is the 
tomb of Canova. It is a marvel of beauty ! But what 
delights me most is the absolute quiet and absence of all 
street noises. To sit at the open window in the moonlight 
and gaze upon S. Maria della Salute, or over to the 
Lagoons on the left, is simply glorious ! It is very plea- 
sant also to sit in the Piazza di San Marco (near the Cafe) 
in the afternoon and watch the stream of people go by. 
The little corridor-like streets please me, too, especially in 
the evening when the windows are lit up. In short, Venice 
has bewitched me. To-day I have been considering 
whether it would not be better to stay here than at Clarens 
Clarens is quiet, cheap, and nice, but often dull ; here 
nature is less beautiful, but there is more life and move- 
ment, and this is not of the kind that bewilders and con- 
fuses me. . . . To-morrow I will look for a furnished 
apartment. If I succeed in finding one I shall be just 
as undecided as before." 

1 The Basilica. 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"VENICE, November \%th (30^), 1877. 

"... The few days spent here have done me a great 
deal of good. First, I have been able to work a little, 
so that my brother will take the second scene of the opera 
not quite finished back to Moscow with him. Secondly, 
I feel much better, although I was not very well yesterday. 
It is only a slight chill, however. Thirdly, I am quite 
in love with my beautiful Venice, and have decided to 
come back here after parting from my brother in Vienna. 
Do not laugh, for Heaven's sake, at my uncertainty and 
vacillation. This time my decision is irrevocable. I have 
gone so far as to take a very nice apartment in the Riva 
dei Chiavoni. 

" To-morrow I go to Vienna. On my return I will 
begin to work at the Symphony our Symphony. 

" Do you know what enrages me in Venice ? The ven- 
dors of the evening papers. If I go for a walk across the 
Piazza di San Marco I hear on every side, '// Tempo ! La 
Gazzetta di Venezia ! Vittoria dei Turchi ! ' This ' Vit- 
toria dei Turchi ' is shouted every evening. Why do they 
never cry one of our actual victories ? Why do they try 
to attract customers by fictitious Turkish successes ? Can 
it be that peaceful, beautiful Venice, who once lost her 
strength in fighting these same Turks, is as full of hatred 
for Russia as all the rest of Western Europe ? 

" Beside myself with indignation, I asked one of them, 
' Ma dove la vittoria?' It turned out that a Turkish 
victory was really a reconnaissance, in which the Russians 
had had about one hundred casualties. ' Is that a victory ? ' 
I asked him angrily. I could not understand his reply, 
but he cried no more ' victories.' One must acknowledge 
the amiability, politeness, and obligingness of the Italians. 
These qualities of theirs strike one very forcibly when one 
comes direct from Switzerland, where the people are 
gloomy, unfriendly, and disinclined for a joke. To-day, 
when I met the same vendor of papers, he greeted me 
civilly, and instead of calling out, * Grande vittoria dei 
Turchi ' with which words the others were recommending 
their wares he began to cry, ' Gran combattimento a 


Plevna, vittoria dei Russi ! ' I knew he lied, but it pleased 
me all the same, since it expressed the innate courtesy of 
a poor man. 

" When will it end, this terrible war, in which such unim- 
portant results have to be won at such vast sacrifices ? 
And yet it must be fought out to the end, until the enemy 
is utterly vanquished. This war cannot and must not 
be settled by compromises and side issues. One or the 
other must give in. But how disgraceful it seems to speak 
of such a life-and-death struggle while sitting in a bright, 
comfortable, well-lit room, knowing neither hunger nor 
thirst, and well protected from bad weather and all other 
physical deprivations and discomforts ! From moral and 
spiritual troubles we are none of us safe. As to my own, 
I know one remedy and alleviation my work. But our 
strength is not always equal to our work. Oh, my God, if 
I could only find strength and gladness of heart for new 
works ! Just now I can only go on patching up the old 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"VIENNA, November zoth (December 2nd), 1877. 

"... Yesterday evening found us in Vienna. The 
journey across the Semmering left a fascinating im- 
pression. The weather was fine. On the journey I read 
and re-read your letter, my dear friend. 

"... Now it is evident that theoretically you have 
separated yourself from the Church and from dogmatic 
belief. I perceive that after years of thought you have 
framed for yourself a kind of religio-philosophic catechism. 
But it strikes me you are mistaken in supposing that 
parallel with the bulwarks of the old, strong faith which 
you have overthrown, you have raised new ones, so sure 
and reliable that you can afford to do away entirely with 
the old lines of defence. Herein lies precisely the sceptic's 
tragedy : once he has broken the ties which bind him to 
traditional belief, he passes from one set of philosophical 
speculations to another, always imagining he will discover 
that inexhaustible source of strength, so needful for the 
battle of life, with which the believer is fully equipped. 
You may say what you please, but a faith not that which 


proceeds from mere deficiency of reasoning power and 
is simply a matter of routine but a faith founded on 
reason and able to reconcile all misconceptions and con- 
tradictions arising from intellectual criticism such a belief 
is the supreme happiness. A man who has both intellect 
and faith (and there are many such) is clad, as it were, in 
a panoply of armour which can resist all the blows of fate. 
You say you have fallen away from the accepted forms 
of religion and have made a creed for yourself. But 
religion is an element of reconciliation. Have you this 
sense of being reconciled ? I think not. For if you had, 
you would never have written that letter from Como. Do 
you remember? That yearning, that discontent, that 
aspiration towards some vague ideal, that isolation from 
humanity, the confession that only in music the 
most ideal of all the arts could you find any solution 
of these agitating questions, all proved to me that your 
self-made religion did not give that absolute peace of 
mind which is peculiar to those who have found in their 
faith a ready-made answer to all those doubts which 
torment a reflective and sensitive nature. And, do you 
know it seems to me you only care so much for my 
music because I am as full of the ideal longing as yourself. 
Our sufferings are the same. Your doubts are as strong 
as mine. We are both adrift in that limitless sea of 
scepticism, seeking a haven and finding none. 

"Are not these the reasons why my music touches you 
so closely ? I also think you are mistaken in calling your- 
self a realist. If we define ' realism ' as contempt for all 
that is false and insincere in life as in art you are un- 
doubtedly a 'realist.' But when we consider that a true 
realist would never dream of seeking consolation in music, 
as you do, it is evident you are far more of an idealist. 
You are only a realist in the sense that you do not care to 
waste time over sentimental, trivial, and aimless dreams, 
like so many women. You do not care for phrases and 
empty words, but that does not mean you are a realist. 
Impossible ! Realism argues a certain limited outlook, 
a thirst for truth which is too quickly and easily satisfied. 
A realist does not actually feel eager to comprehend the 
essential problems of existence ; he even denies the need 


of seeking truth, and does not believe in those who are 
searching for reconcilement and religion, philosophy, or 
art. Art especially music counts for nothing with the 
realist, because it is the answer to a question which his 
narrow intellect is incapable of posing. For these reasons 
I think you are wrong in declaring you have enrolled 
under the banner of realism. You say music only pro- 
duces in you a pleasant, purely physical, sensation. Against 
this I distinctly protest. You are deceiving yourself. Do 
you really only care for music in the same way that I enjoy 
a bottle of wine or a pickled gherkin? Nay, you love 
music as it should be loved : that is to say, you give your- 
self up to it with all your soul and let it exercise its magic 
spell all unconsciously upon your spirit. 

" Perhaps it may seem strange that I should doubt your 
self-knowledge. But, to my mind, you are, first of all, 
a very good woman, and have been so from your birth up. 
You honour what is good because the aspiration towards 
the right, as well as the hatred of lies and evil, is innate 
in you. You are clever, and consequently sceptical. An 
intelligent man cannot help being a sceptic; at least he 
must at some period of his life experience the most agonis- 
ing scepticism. When your innate scepticism led you to 
the negation of tradition and dogma you naturally began 
to seek some way of escape from your doubts. You found 
it partly in the pantheistic point of view, and partly in 
music ; but you discovered no perfect reconcilement with 
faith. Hating all evil and falsehood, you enclose yourself 
in your narrow family circle in order to shut out the 
consciousness of human wickedness. You have done much 
good, because, like your innate love of nature and art, this 
doing good is an invincible craving of your soul. You 
help others, not in order to purchase that eternal happiness 
which you neither quite believe in nor quite deny, but 
because you are so made that you cannot help doing good." 

To N. F. Von Meek. 
"VIENNA, November 2yd (December 5//), 1877. 

" The continuation of my letter : 

" My feeling about the Church is quite different to yours. 


For me it still possesses much poetical charm. I very 
often attend the services. I consider the liturgy of St. 
John Chrysostom one of the greatest productions of art. 
If we follow the service very carefully, and enter into the 
meaning of every ceremony, it is impossible not to be pro- 
foundly moved by the liturgy of our own Orthodox Church. 
I also love vespers. To stand on a Saturday evening in 
the twilight in some little old country church, filled with 
the smoke of incense ; to lose oneself in the eternal ques- 
tions, ivhence, why, and whither ; to be startled from one's 
trance by a burst from the choir ; to be carried away by 
the poetry of this music ; to be thrilled with quiet rapture 
when the Golden Gates of the Iconostasis are flung open 
and the words ring out, ' Praise the name of the Lord ! ' 
all this is infinitely precious to me ! One of my deepest 

" Thus, from one point of view, I am firmly united to 
our Church. From other standpoints I have like yourself 
long since lost faith in dogma. The doctrine of retribu- 
tion, for instance, seems to me monstrous in its injustice 
and unreason. Like you, I am convinced that if there is 
a future life at all, it is only conceivable in the sense of the 
indestructibility of matter, in the pantheistic view of the 
eternity of nature, of which I am only a microscopic atom. 
I cannot believe in a personal, individual immortality. 

" How shall we picture to ourselves eternal life after 
death? As endless bliss? But such endless joy is incon- 
ceivable apart from its opposite eternal pain. I entirely 
refuse to believe in the latter. Finally, I am not sure that 
life beyond death is desirable, for it would lose its charm 
but for its alternations of joy and sorrow, its struggle 
between good and evil, darkness and light. How can we 
contemplate immortality as a state of eternal bliss ? Ac- 
cording to our earthly conceptions, even bliss itself becomes 
wearisome if it is never broken or interrupted. So I have 
come to the conclusion, as the result of much thinking, 
that there is no future life. But conviction is one thing, 
and feeling and instinct another. This denial of immor- 
tality brings me face to face with the terrible thought that 
I shall never, never, again set eyes upon some of my dear 
dead. In spite of the strength of my convictions, I shall 


never reconcile myself to the thought that my dear mother, 
whom I loved so much, actually is not ; that I shall never 
have any chance of telling her how, after twenty-three 
years of separation, she is as dear to me as ever. 

" You see, my dear friend, I am made up of contradictions, 
and I have reached a very mature age without resting upon 
anything positive, without having calmed my restless spirit 
either by religion or philosophy. Undoubtedly I should 
have gone mad but for music. Music is indeed the most 
beautiful of all Heaven's gifts to humanity wandering in 
the darkness. Alone it calms, enlightens, and stills our 
souls. It is not the straw to which the drowning man 
clings ; but a true friend, refuge, and comforter, for whose 
sake life is worth living. Perhaps there will be no music 
in heaven. Well, let us give our mortal life to it as long 
as it lasts." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"VIENNA, November 26th (December 8//), 1877. 

" I am still in Vienna. Yesterday I heard that my 
servant would leave Moscow on Saturday. Although I 
have given him the most minute instructions what to do 
on the journey, I have no idea how he will cross the frontier, 
not knowing a single word of any foreign language. I 
fancy there will be many tragic-comic episodes. Some- 
times I think it is not very wise to have a Russian servant. 
And yet I do not know what I should have done, since 
I cannot endure complete solitude. Besides which I know 
it will be a comfort to my brother to feel I am not quite 
alone. I have seen Wagner's Walkiire. The performance 
was excellent. The orchestra surpassed itself; the best 
singers did all within their powers and yet it was wearisome. 
What a Don Quixote is Wagner! He expends his whole 
force in pursuing the impossible, and all the time, if he 
would but follow the natural bent of his extraordinary gift, 
he might evoke a whole world of musical beauties. In my 
opinion Wagner is a symphonist by nature. He is gifted 
with genius which has wrecked itself upon his tendencies ; 
his inspiration is paralysed by theories which he has in- 
vented on his own account, and which, nolens volens, he 
wants to bring into practice. In his efforts to attain reality, 


truth, and rationalism he lets music slip quite out of sight, 
so that in his four latest operas it is, more often than not, 
conspicuous by its absence. I cannot call that music 
which consists of kaleidoscopic, shifting phrases, which 
succeed each other without a break and never come to 
a close, that is to say, never give the ear the least chance 
to rest upon musical form. Not a single broad, rounded 
melody, nor yet one moment of repose for the singer ! 
The latter must always pursue the orchestra, and be care- 
ful never to lose his note, which has no more importance 
in the score than some note for the fourth horn. But there 
is no doubt Wagner is a wonderful symphonist. I will just 
prove to you by one example how far the symphonic pre- 
vails over the operatic style in his operas. You have 
probably heard his celebrated Walkiirenritt? What a 
grqat and marvellous picture ! How we actually seem to 
see these fierce heroines flying on their magic steeds amid 
thunder and lightning ! In the concert-room this piece 
makes an extraordinary impression. On the stage, in view 
of the cardboard rocks, the canvas clouds, and the soldiers 
who run about very awkwardly in the background in 
a word, seen in this very inadequate theatrical heaven, 
which makes a poor pretence of realising the illimitable 
realms above, the music loses all its powers of expression. 
Here the stage does not enhance the effect, but acts rather 
like a wet blanket. Finally I cannot understand, and 
never shall, why the Nibelungen should be considered a 
literary masterpiece. As a national saga perhaps, but as 
a libretto distinctly not ! 

" Wotan, Briinnhilda, Fricka, and the rest are all so 
impossible, so little human, that it is very difficult to feel 
any sympathy with their destinies. And how little life ! 
For three whole hours Wotan lectures Briinnhilda upon 
her disobedience. How wearisome ! And with it all, there 
are many fine and beautiful episodes of a purely sym- 
phonic description. 

"Yesterday Kotek 1 and I looked through a new sym- 
phony by Brahms (No. I in C minor), a composer whom 
the Germans exalt to the skies. He has no charms for me. 

1 Kotek, who was then studying with Joachim in Berlin, joined Tchaikovsky 
for a few days in Vienna. 


I find him cold and obscure, full of pretensions, but with- 
out any real depths. Altogether it seems to me Germany 
is deteriorating as regards music. I believe the French are 
now coming to the front. Lately I have heard DeUibes' 
very clever music in its own style to the ballet Sylvia. 
I became acquainted with this music in the pianoforte 
arrangement some time ago, but the splendid performance 
of it by the Vienna orchestra quite fascinated me, especially 
the first part. The Swan Lake is poor stuff compared to 
Sylvia. Nothing during the last few years has charmed 
me so greatly as this ballet of Delibes and Carmen? 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"VIENNA, November 27^ (December yth\ 1877. 

" Kotek and my brother have gone to the Philharmonic 
concert, at which my favourite Third Symphony of Schu- 
mann is being played. I preferred to remain at home 
alone. I was afraid I might meet some of the local 
musicians with whom I am acquainted. If only I came 
across one, by to-morrow I should have to call on at* least 
ten musical ' lions,' make their acquaintance, and express 
my gratitude for their favours. (Last year, without any 
initiative on my part, my overture Romeo and Juliet was 
performed here and unanimously hissed.) No doubt I 
should do much towards making my works known abroad 
if I went the round of the influential people, paying visits 
and compliments. But, Lord, how I hate that kind of 
thing! If you could only hear the offensively patronising 
tone in which they speak of Russian music ! One reads 
in their faces : ' Although you are a Russian, my con- 
descension is such that I honour you with my attention." 
God be with them ! Last year I met Liszt. He was 
sickeningly polite, but all the while there was a smile on 
his lips which expressed the above words pretty plainly. 
At the present moment, as you will understand, I am 
less than ever in the mood to be civil to these gentle- 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"VIENNA, November 2<)th (December io/$), 1877. 

" My brother only left at a quarter to eleven. I will not 
go into my feelings ; you know what they are. My servant 
arrived yesterday at five o'clock. I was quite wrong in 
supposing he would encounter any serious difficulties on 
account of his ignorance of the language ; and equally 
wrong as to his first impressions of foreign lands. He is, 
like all Russian peasants, as plucky as he is quick-witted, 
and knows how to get out of the most difficult situations ; 
consequently he crossed the frontier as easily as though he 
had been in the habit of making the journey frequently. 
As to his impressions, he thinks the houses in Vienna far 
inferior to those in Moscow, and Moscow altogether in- 
comparably more beautiful. The news of the capture of 
Plevna has made the separation from my brother more 
bearable. When the waiter brought my early coffee 
yesterday, with the announcement, * Plevna has fallen/ I 
nearly embraced him ! It seems from the papers as though 
Austria was not best pleased, and was rather aggrieved at 
the capitulation of the flower of the Turkish army." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"VENICE, December $rd (15^), 1877. 

"... There is one thing in your letter with which I 
cannot agree in the least your view of music. I particu- 
larly dislike the way in which you compare music with a 
form of intoxication. I think this is quite wrong. A man 
has recourse to wine in order to stupefy himself and pro- 
duce an illusion of well-being and happiness. But this 
dream costs him very dear ! The reaction is generally 
terrible. But in any case wine can only bring a 
momentary oblivion of all our troubles no more. Has 
music a similar effect? Music is no illusion, but rather a 
revelation. Its triumphant power lies in the fact that it 
reveals to us beauties we find in no other sphere ; and the 
apprehension of them is not transitory, but a perpetual 
reconcilement to life. Music enlightens and delights us. It 
is extremely difficult to analyse and define the process of 


musical enjoyment, but it has nothing in common with in- 
toxication. It is certainly not a physiological phenomenon. 
Of course the nerves therefore to some extent our physical 
organs take part in our musical impressions and, in this 
sense, music gives physical delight : but you must own it is 
exceedingly difficult to draw a hard-and-fast line between 
the physical and psychical functions ; for instance, thought 
is a physiological process in so far as it pertains to the 
functions of the brain. But when all is said and done, 
this is only a matter of words. If we both look upon the 
enjoyment of music from opposite points of view, at least 
one thing is certain : our love of it is equally strong, and 
that is sufficient for me. I am glad you apply the word 
divine to the art to which I have dedicated my life. 

" In your philosophy I altogether approve your views of 
good and evil. These views are perhaps rather fatalistic, 
but full of Christian charity towards your weak and sinful 
fellow-creatures. You are quite right in saying that it is 
foolish to expect wisdom and virtue from a person not 
endowed with these qualities. Here again I hit upon the 
obvious difference between your personality and mine ; I 
have always compelled myself to regard the evil in man's 
nature as the inevitable negation of good. Taking this 
point of view (which originates, if I am not mistaken, with 
Spinoza), I ought never to feel anger or hatred. Actually, 
however, no moment passes in which I am not prepared to 
lose my temper, to hate and despise my fellow-creatures, 
just as though I was not aware that each person acts 
according to the decree of fate. I know that you are a 
stranger to the least feeling of spite or contempt. You 
elude the blows aimed at you by others, and never 
retaliate. In short, you carry your philosophy into your 
workaday life. I am different ; I think one thing and do 

" I will just give you an instance. I have a friend 
called Kondratiev ; he is a very nice, pleasant fellow, 
with only one fault egotism. But he can cloak this 
failing under such charming, gentlemanly disguises that 
it is impossible to be angry with him for long. In 
September, when I was passing through the climax of my 
suffering in Moscow, and was looking about in a paroxysm 


of depression for someone to come to my aid, Kondratiev 
who was then living on his property in the Government 
of Kharkov chanced to write to me one of his usual 
kindly letters, assuring me of his friendship. I did not 
want to reveal my state to my brothers at that time, for fear 
of making them unhappy. My cup of misery was over- 
flowing. I wrote to Kondratiev, telling him of my terrible 
and hopeless condition. The meaning of my letter, ex- 
pressed between the lines, was : ' I am going under, save 
me ! Rescue me, but be quick about it ! ' I felt sure that 
he, a well-to-do and independent man, who was as he 
himself declared ready to make any sacrifice for friend- 
ship's sake, would immediately come to my assistance. 
Afterwards you know what happened. Not until I was in 
Clarens did I receive the answer to my letter, which had 
reached Moscow a week after my flight from thence. In 
this reply Kondratiev said he was sorry for my plight, and 
concluded with the following words : ' Pray, dear friend, 
pray. God will show you how to overcome your sad con- 
dition.' A cheap and simple way of getting out of the 
difficulty ! To-night I have been reading the third volume 
of Thackeray's splendid novel Pendennis. ' The Major ' is 
a living type, who frequently reminds me of Kondratiev. 
One episode recalled my friend so vividly that I sprang 
out of bed, then and there, and wrote him in terms of 
mockery which disclosed all my temper. When I read your 
letter I felt ashamed. I wrote to him again, and asked 
pardon for my unreasonable anger. See what a good 
influence you have on me, dear friend ! You are my 
Providence and my comforter ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"VENICE, December qth (au/), 1877. 

" I am working diligently at the orchestration of our 
Symphony, and am quite absorbed in the task. 

" None of my earlier works for orchestra have given me 
such trouble as this ; but on none have I expended such 
love and devotion. I experienced a pleasant surprise 
when I began to work at it again. At first I was only 
actuated by a desire to bring the unfinished Symphony to 


an end, no matter what it cost me. Gradually, however, I 
fell more and more under the spell of the work, and now 
I can hardly tear myself away from it. 

" Dear Nadejda Filaretovna, I may be making a 
mistake, but it seems to me this Symphony is not a 
mediocre work, but the best I have done so far. How 
glad I am that it is ours, and that, hearing it, you will 
know how much I thought of you with every bar. Would 
it ever have been finished but for you ? When I was still 
in Moscow and believed my end to be imminent, I made 
the following note upon the first sketch, which I had quite 
forgotten until I came upon it just now : ' In case of my 
death I desire this book to be given to N. F. von Meek.' 
I wanted you to keep the manuscript of my last composi- 
tion. Now I am not only well, but have to thank you for 
placing me in such a position that I can devote myself 
entirely to my work, and I believe a composition is taking 
form under my pen which will not be destined to oblivion. 
I may be wrong, however ; all artists are alike in their 
enthusiasm for their latest work. In any case, I am in 
good heart now, thanks to the interest of the Symphony. 
I am even indifferent to the various petty annoyances 
inflicted upon me by the hotel-keeper. It is a wretched 
hotel ; but I do not want to leave until the question of my 
brother's coming is decided." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"VENICE, December \zth (24^), 1877. 

" To-day I have received the pleasant news that Modeste 
and his nice pupil are coming to join me. The boy's 
father (Konradi) has only consented to this arrangement 
on condition that I will go to some place where the 
climate is suitable for his son. He suggests San Remo, 
where there are plenty of comfortable hotels and pensions. 
... I have had a letter from my brother Anatol, which 
was very comforting. They are just as fond of me as ever 
at Kamenka ; I am quite at rest on this score. I had 
a fancy that they only pitied me, and this hurt me very 
deeply! Lately I have begun to receive letters from 
them. . . . but my brother has reassured me that all the 


folk at Kamenka -a group of beings who are very, very 
dear to me have forgiven me, and understand I acted 
blindly, and that my fault was involuntary." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"MILAN, December i6th (28^), 1877. 

" I only arrived here at four o'clock, and after a short 
walk in the charming town went to the theatre in the 
evening. Unfortunately, not to La Scala, which was closed 
to-night, but to Dal Verme, where four years ago A Life 
for the Tsar was produced. This evening Ruy Bias, by 
Marcetti, was given. This opera has made a stir in Italy 
for some years, so I hoped to hear something interesting. 
It proved, however, to be a dull, commonplace imitation 
of Verdi, but lacking the strength and sincere warmth 
which characterise the coarse, but powerful, works of this 
composer. The performance was worse than mediocre. 
Sometimes it awoke sad thoughts in my mind. A young 
queen comes upon the stage, with whom everyone is in 
love. The singer who took this part seemed very con- 
scientious and did her utmost. How far she was, how- 
ever, from resembling a beautiful, queenly woman who 
has the gift of charming every man she sets eyes upon ! 
And the hero, Ruy Bias ! He did not sing so badly, but 
instead of a handsome young hero, one saw a lackey. 
Not the smallest illusion ! Then I thought of my own 
opera. Where shall I find a Tatiana such as Poushkin 
dreamed of, and such as I have striven to realise in music ? 
Where is the artist who can approach the ideal Oniegin, 
that cold-hearted dandy, impregnated to the marrow of 
his bones with the fashionable notion of 'good tone'? 
Where is there a Lensky, that youth of eighteen, with 
the flowing locks and the gushing and would-be-original 
manners of a poetaster a la Schiller ? How commonplace 
Poushkin's charming characters will appear on the stage, 
with all its routine, its drivelling traditions, its veterans 
male and female who undertake without a blush to play 
the parts of girl-heroines and beardless youths ! Moral : 
it is much pleasanter to write purely instrumental music 
which involves fewer disappointments, What agony I 


have had to go through during the performance of my 
operas, more especially Vakoula ! What I pictured to 
myself had so little resemblance to what I actually saw 
on the stage of the Maryinsky Theatre ! What an Oxane, 
what a Vakoula ! You saw them ? 

" After the opera to-night there was a very frivolous 
ballet with transformation scenes, a harlequin, and all 
manner of astonishing things ; but the music was dread- 
fully commonplace. At the same time it amused while 
the opera performance irritated me. Yet Ruy Bias is an 
excellent operatic subject. 

" From Venice I carried away a charming little song. 
I had two pleasant musical experiences while in Italy. 
The first was in Florence. I cannot remember whether 
I told you about it before. One evening Anatol and I 
suddenly heard someone singing in the street, and saw a 
crowd in which we joined. The singer was a boy about 
ten or eleven, who accompanied himself on a guitar. He 
sang in a wonderfully rich, full voice, with such warmth 
and finish as one rarely hears, even among accomplished 
artists. The intensely tragic words of the song had a 
strange charm coming from these childish lips. The 
singer, like all Italians, showed an extraordinary feeling 
for rhythm. This characteristic of the Italians interests 
me very much, because it is directly contrary to our folk- 
songs as sung by the people." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REMO, December 20^, 1877 (January if/, 1878). 

" I have found an abode in the Pension " Joli " ; four 
poorly furnished rooms which form a little separate flat 
at a comparatively low rent. 

" The situation of San Remo is truly enchanting. The 
little town lies on a hill, and is closely packed together. 
The lower town consists almost exclusively of hotels, 
which are all overcrowded. San Remo has become the 
fashion since our Empress stayed here. To-day, without 
exaggeration, we are having summer weather. The sun 
was almost unbearable, even without an overcoat. Every- 
where one sees olive trees, palms, oranges, lemons, helio- 


trope, jasmine in short, it is gloriously beautiful. And 
yet shall I tell you or not? When I walk by the sea I 
am seized with a desire to go home and pour out all my 
yearning and agitations in a letter to you, or to Toly. 
Why? Why should a simple Russian landscape, a walk 
through our homely villages and woods, a tramp over the 
fields and steppes at sunset, inspire me with such an 
intense love of nature that I throw myself down on the 
earth and give myself up to the enchantment with which 
all these humble things can fill me? Why? I only 
observe the fact without attempting to explain it. 

" I am very glad, however, that I continued my walk, 
for had I listened to my inner promptings, you would have 
had to endure another of my jeremiads. I know I shall 
feel quite differently to-morrow, especially when I begin 
the finale of my Symphony ; but to-day ? I am unequal 
to describing exactly what I feel, or what I want. To 
return to Russia no. It would be terrible to go back ; 
for I know I shall return a different man. 

" And here ? There is no more lovely spot on earth than 
San Remo, and yet I assure you that neither the palms, 
nor the oranges, nor the beautiful blue sea, nor the moun- 
tains, make the impression upon me which they might be 
expected to do. Consolation, peace, well-being I can only 
draw from within. The success of the Symphony, the con- 
sciousness that I am writing something good, will reconcile 
me to-morrow to all the friction and worry of previous 
days. The arrival of my brother will be a great joy. I 
have a curious feeling towards nature at least towards 
such a luxuriant nature as surrounds me here. It dazzles 
me, gets on my nerves, makes me angry. I feel at such 
moments as though I were going out of my mind. But 
enough of all this . . . really I am like the old woman 
whose fate Poushkin describes in his fable of 'The 
Fisherman and the little Fish.' The greater reason I have 
to be happy, the more discontented I become. Since I left 
Russia a few dear souls have shown me such proofs of 
affection as would suffice to make the happiness of a 
hundred men. I see that as compared to millions of 
people who are really unhappy, I should regard myself as 
a spoilt child of fortune, and yet I am not happy, not 


happy, not happy. There are moments of happiness. 
There is also that preoccupation with my work which often 
possesses me so entirely that I forget everything not 
directly connected with my art. But happiness does not 
exist for me. However, here is my jeremiad after all ; it 
seems to have been inevitable ! And it is ridiculous, 
besides, being in some sort indelicate. But since once for 
all you are my best friend, dear Nadejda Filaretovna, must 
I not tell you all, all that goes on in my queer, morbid 
soul ? Forgive me this. To-morrow I shall regret it ; to- 
day it has been a relief to grumble to you a little. Do not 
attach too much importance to it. Do you know what I 
sometimes feel on such days as this? It comes over me 
suddenly that no one really loves me, or can love me, 
because I am a pitiable, contemptible being. And I have 
not strength to put away such thoughts . . . but there 
I am beginning my lamentations over again. 

" I quite forgot to tell you, I spent a day in Genoa. In 
its way it is a fine place. Do you know Santa Maria di 
Carignano, from the tower of which one gets such a 
wonderful view over the whole town ? Extraordinarily 
picturesque ! " 

Shortly after Tchaikovsky left Russia for this tour 
abroad, he was asked to represent his country as musical 
delegate at the Paris Exhibition. The part was not suited 
to his nervous and retiring nature, but, as the prospect 
seemed remote, he had not given a definite refusal, and by 
December had almost entirely forgotten the proposal. 
Then, to his extreme annoyance, he received a communica- 
tion from the Minister of Finance, nominating him to the 
post with a fee of 1,000 francs per month. Tchaikovsky 
was thrown into the greatest consternation at this news, as 
we may gather from the letters he wrote at this time. 

" How shall I escape from this dilemma ? " he says to 
Nadejda von Meek. " I cannot prevent my brother's 
coming here, because I have no idea where he is just 
now. . . . Neither is there time for me to take counsel 


with my friends. Who knows, perhaps it might be good 
for me to come out of my cell and plunge, against my will, 
into the stream of Paris life ? But if only you knew what 
it would cost me ! It goes without saying that I have 
not been able to do a stroke of work to-day. O God, when 
shall I eventually find peace ? " 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 
"SAN REMO, December 23^, 1877 (January tfh\ 1878. 

". . . . The day before yesterday I tried to imagine what 
you would say if you were here. I believe you would 
advise me to go to Paris. 

" But if you saw my miserable face to-day, and could 
watch me striding up and down my room like a madman, 
you would certainly say Stay where you are ! Now that 
I have decided to refuse the post I shall be tormented 
with the thought that you, Nadejda von Meek, and the 
others, will be vexed with me. . . . There is one thing 
I have hidden from you ; since the day you left I have 
taken several glasses of brandy at night, and during 
the day I drink a good deal. I cannot do without it. 

" I never feel calm except when I have taken a little too 
much. I have accustomed myself so much to this secret 
tippling that I feel a kind of joy at the sight of the bottle 
I keep near me. I can only write my letters after a 
nip. This is a proof that I am still out of health. 

" In Paris I should have to be drinking from morning 
till night to be equal to all the excitement. My hope 
is in Modeste. A quiet life in a pleasant spot and plenty 
of work that is what I need. In a word, for God's sake 
do not be angry with me that I cannot go to Paris." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REMO, December, 24^, 1877 (January $th, 1878). 

" I have just received your letter, and must answer 
it fully. The young Petersburg composers are very 
gifted, but they are all impregnated with the most 
horrible presumptuousness and a purely amateur con- 
viction of their superiority to all other musicians in the 


universe. The one exception, in later days, has been 
Rimsky-Korsakov. He was also an 'auto-dictator' like 
the rest, but recently he has undergone a complete change. 
By nature he is very earnest, honourable, and con- 
scientious. As a very young man he dropped into a set 
which first solemnly assured him he was a genius, and 
then proceeded to convince him that he had no need 
to study, that academies were destructive to all inspiration 
and dried up creative activity. At first he believed all 
this. His earliest compositions bear the stamp of striking 
ability and a lack of theoretical training. The circle to 
which he belonged was a mutual admiration society. 
Each member was striving to imitate the work of another, 
after proclaiming it as something very wonderful. Con- 
sequently the whole set suffered from one-sidedness, lack 
of individuality and mannerisms. Rimsky-Korsakov is the 
only one among them who discovered, five years ago, that 
the doctrines preached by this circle had no sound basis, 
that their mockery of the schools and the classical masters, 
their denial of authority and of the masterpieces, was 
nothing but ignorance. I possess a letter dating from that 
time which moved me very deeply. Rimsky-Korsakov 
was overcome by despair when he realised how many un- 
profitable years he had wasted, and that he was following 
a road which led nowhere. He began to study with such 
zeal that the theory of the schools soon became to 
him an indispensable atmosphere. During one summer 
he achieved innumerable exercises in counterpoint and 
sixty-four fugues, ten of which he sent me for inspection. 
From contempt for the schools, Rimsky-Korsakov suddenly 
went over to the cult of musical technique, Shortly 
after this appeared his symphony and also his quartet. 
Both works are full of obscurities and as you will justly 
observe bear the stamp of dry pedantry. At present 
he appears to be passing through a crisis, and it is hard 
to predict how it will end. Either he will turn out a great 
master, or be lost in contrapuntal intricacies. 

" C. Cui is a gifted amateur. His music is not original, but 
graceful and elegant ; it is too coquettish ' made up ' so 
to speak. At first it pleases, but soon satiates us. That 
is because Cui's speciality is not music, but fortification, 


upon which he has to give a number of lectures in the 
various military schools in St. Petersburg. He himself 
once told me he could only compose by picking out his 
melodies and harmonies as he sat at the piano. When he 
hit upon some pretty idea, he worked it up in every detail, 
and this process was very lengthy, so that his opera 
Ratcliff, for instance, took him ten years to complete. 
But, as I have said, we cannot deny that he has talent of 
a kind and at least taste and instinct. 

"Borodin aged fifty Professor of Chemistry at the 
Academy of Medicine, also possesses talent, a very great 
talent, which however has come to nothing for the want of 
teaching, and because blind fate has led him into the 
science laboratories instead of a vital musical existence. 
He has not as much taste as Cui, and his technique is so 
poor that he cannot write a bar without assistance. 

" With regard to Moussorgsky, as you very justly remark, 
he is ' used up.' His gifts are perhaps the most remark- 
able of all, but his nature is narrow and he has no aspira- 
tions towards self-perfection. He has been too easily led 
away by the absurd theories of his set and the belief in 
his own genius. Besides which his nature is not of the 
finest quality, and he likes what is coarse, unpolished, and 
ugly. He is the exact opposite of the distinguished and 
elegant Cui. 

" Moussorgsky plays with his lack of polish and even 
seems proud of his want of skill, writing just as it comes 
to him, believing blindly in the infallibility of his genius. 
As a matter of fact his very original talent flashes forth 
now and again. 

"Balakirev is the greatest personality of the entire 
circle. But he relapsed into silence before he had accom- 
plished much. He possesses a wonderful talent which 
various fatal hindrances have helped to extinguish. After 
having proclaimed his agnosticism rather widely, he 
suddenly became ' pious.' Now he spends all his time in 
church, fasts, kisses the relics and does very little else. 
In spite of his great gifts, he has done a great deal of 
harm. For instance, he it was who ruined Korsakov's 
early career by assuring him he had no need to study. 
He is the inventor of all the theories of this remarkable 


circle which unites so many undeveloped, falsely developed, 
or prematurely decayed, talents. 

" These are my frank opinions upon these gentlemen. 
What a sad phenomenon ! So many talents from which 
with the exception of Rimsky-Korsakov we can scarcely 
dare to hope for anything serious. But this is always our 
case in Russia : vast forces which are impeded by the fatal 
shadow of a Plevna from taking the open field and fighting 
as they should. But all the same, these forces exist. Thus 
Moussorgsky, with all his ugliness, speaks a new idiom. 
Beautiful it may not be, but it is new. We may reason- 
ably hope that Russia will one day produce a whole school 
of strong men who will open up new paths in art Our 
roughness is, at any rate, better than the poor, would-be- 
serious pose of a Brahms. The Germans are hopelessly 
played out. With us there is always the hope that the 
moral Plevna will fall, and our strength will make itself 
felt. So far, however, very little has been accomplished. 
The French have made great progress. True, Berlioz has 
only just begun to be appreciated, ten years after his 
death ; but they have many new talents and opponents of 
routine. In France the struggle against routine is a very 
hard matter, for the French are terribly conservative in art. 
They were the last nation to recognise Beethoven. Even 
as late as the forties they considered him a madman or 
an eccentric. The first of French critics, Fetis, bewailed 
the fact that Beethoven had committed so many sins 
against the laws of harmony, and obligingly corrected these 
mistakes twenty-five years later. 

" Among modern French composers Bizet and Delibes 
are my favourites. I do not know the overture Patrie, 
about which you wrote to me, but I am very familiar with 
Bizet's opera Carmen. The music is not profound, but it 
is so fascinating in its simplicity, so full of vitality, so 
sincere, that I know every note of it from beginning to 
end. I have already told you what I think of Delibes. 
In their efforts towards progress the French are not so 
rash as our younger men ; they do not, like Borodin and 
Moussorgsky, go beyond the bounds of possibility." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"SAN REMO, January ist (i$th), 1878. 

" Returning to San Remo, I found a mass of letters and 
your telegram. This time I actually heard from you the 
first intelligence of Radetzky's victory. 1 Thank you for 
the good news and all your wishes. Whatever may chance, 
the year before me can bring nothing worse than the last. 
At any rate the present leaves nothing to be desired, 
except for my unhappy disposition, which always exagge- 
rates the evil and does not sufficiently rejoice in the good. 
Among my letters was one from Anatol, who writes a great 
deal about my wife and the whole unhappy affair. All 
goes well, but directly I begin to think over the details of 
a past which is still too recent, my misery returns. I have 
also received a letter from the committee of the Russian 
section of the Paris Exhibition, which has made me regret 
my refusal. My conscience still pricks me. Is it not 
foolish and egotistical on my part to decline the office of 
delegate? I write this to you, because I am now in the 
habit of telling you everything. . . " 

To N. G. Rubinstein. 

"SAN REMO, January ist (i$tK), 1878. 

"... From Albrecht's telegram, which I found here on 
my return from Milan, I gather that you are vexed with 
me for having declined to act as delegate. Dear friend, 
you know me well ; could I really have helped the cause 
of Russian music in Paris? You know how little gift I 
have for organising. Added to which there is my mis- 
anthropical shyness, which is becoming a kind of incur- 
able malady. What would have been the result ? I should 
only worry myself to death with both the French and the 
Russian rabble, and nothing would be carried out. As 
regards myself, or any personal profit it might bring me, 

1 The Shipka Pass. 


it will be sufficient to say that, without exaggeration, I 
would rather be condemned to penal servitude than act as 
delegate in Paris. Were I in a different frame of mind, 
I might agree that the visit could be of use to me ; but 
not at present. I am ill, mentally and physicajly ; just now 
I could not live in any situation in whicri FITaa to be busy, 
agitated, and conspicuously before the world. . . . Now 
as regards the symphony (No. 4) I despatched it to you 
from Milan on Thursday. Possibly it may not please 
you at first sight, therefore I beg you not to be too hasty 
in your judgment, but only to write me your opinion after 
you have heard it performed. I hope you will see your 
way to bringing it out at one of the later concerts. It 
seems to me to be _my_i>est work___Of my two recent pro- 
ductions the opera and the symphony I give decided 
preference to the latter. . . . You are the one conductor 
in all the world on whom I can rely. The first movement 
contains one or two awkward and recurrent changes of time, 
to which T~call your special attention. The third move- 
ment is to be played pizzicato \.. the quicker the better, but 
"I do not quite know how fast it is possible to ^\vy pizzicato? 

To S. I. Taneiev. 
"SAN REMO, January 2nd (itfh), 1878. 

"... Very probably you are quite right in saying that 
my opera is not effective for the stage. I must tell you, 
however, I do not care a rap for such effectiveness. It has 
long been an established fact that I have no dramatic 
vein, and now I do not trouble about it. If it is really 
not fit for the stage, then it had better not be performed ! 
I composed this opera because I was moved to express in 
music all that seems to cry out for such expression in 
Eugene Oniegin. I did my best, working with indescrib- 
able pleasure and enthusiasm, and thought very little of the 
treatment, the effectiveness, and all the rest. I spit upon 
* effects ' ! Besides, what are effects ? For instance, if 
A'ida is effective, I can assure you I would not compose 
an opera on a similar subject for all the wealth of the 
world ; for I want to handle human beings, not puppets. 
I would gladly compose an opera which was completely 


lacking in startling effects, but which offered characters 
resembling my own, whose feelings and experiences I 
shared and understood. The feelings of an Egyptian 
Princess, a Pharaoh, or some mad Nubian, I cannot enter 
into, or comprehend. Some instinct, however, tells me 
that these people must have felt, acted, spoken, and ex- 
pressed themselves quite differently from ourselves. There- 
fore my music, which entirely against my will is im- 
pregnated with Schumannism, Wagnerism, Chopinism, 
Glinkaism, Berliozism, and all the other * isms ' of our 
time, would be as out of keeping with the characters of 
A'ida as the elegant speeches of Racine's heroes couched 
in the second person plural are unsuited to the real 
Orestes or the real Andromache. Such music would be 
a falsehood, and all falsehoods are abhorrent to me. Besides, 
I am reaping the fruits of my insufficient harvest of book- 
learning. Had I a wider acquaintance with the literatures 
of other countries, I should no doubt have discovered a 
subject which was both suitable for the stage and in 
harmony with my taste. Unfortunately I am not able to 
find such things for myself, nor do I know anyone who 
could call my attention to such a subject as Bizet's 
Carmen, for example, one of the most perfect operas of 
our day. You will ask what I actually require. I will tell 
you. Above all I want no kings, no tumultuous populace, 
no gods, no pompous marches in short, none of those 
things which are the attributes of 'grand opera.' I am 
looking for an intimate yet thrilling drama, based upon 
such a conflict of circumstance as I myself have ex- 
perienced or witnessed, which is capable of touching me 
to the quick. I have nothing to say against the fantastic 
element, because it does not restrict one, but rather offers 
unlimited freedom. I feel I am not expressing myself 
very clearly. In a word, Ai'da is so remote, her love for 
Radames touches me so little since I cannot picture it in 
my mind's eye that my music would lack the vital 
warmth which is essential to good work. Not long since 
I saw L'Africaine in Genoa. This unhappy African, what 
she endures ! Slavery, imprisonment, death under a 
poisoned tree, in her last moment the sight of her rival's 
triumph and yet I never once pitied her ! But what 


effects there were : a ship, a battle, all manner of dodges ! 
When all is said and done, what is the use of these effects? 
. . . With regard to your remark that Tatiana does not 
fall in love with Oniegin at first sight, allow me to say 
you are mistaken. She falls in love at once. She does 
not learn to know him first, and then to care for him. 
Love comes suddenly to her. Even before Oniegin comes 
on the scene she is in love with the hero of her vague 
romance. The instant she sets eyes on Oniegin she in- 
vests him with all the qualities of her ideal, and the love 
she has hitherto bestowed upon the creation of her fancy 
is now transferred to a human being. 

" The opera Oniegin will never have a success ; I feel 
already assured of that. I shall never find singers capable, 
even partially, of fulfilling my requirements. The routine 
which prevails in our theatres, the senseless performances, 
the system of retaining invalided artists and giving no 
chance to younger ones : all this stands in the way of my 
opera being put on the stage. I would much prefer to 
confide it to the theatre of the Conservatoire. Here, at 
any rate, we escape the commonplace routine of the opera, 
and those fatal invalids of both sexes. Besides which, the 
performances at the Conservatoire are private, en petit 
comitJ. This is more suitable to my modest work, which 
I shall not describe as an opera, if it is published. I should 
like to call it 'lyrical scenes/ or something of that kind. 
This opera has no future ! I was quite aware of this when 
I wrote it; nevertheless, I completed it and shall give it to 
the world if Jurgenson is willing to publish it. I shall 
make no effort to have it performed at the Maryinsky 
Theatre ; on the contrary, I should oppose the idea as far 
as possible. It is the outcome of an invincible inward 
impulse. I assure you one should only compose opera 
under such conditions. It is only necessary to think of 
stage effects to a certain extent. If my enthusiasm for 
Eugene Oniegin is evidence of my limitations, my stupidity 
and ignorance of the requirements of the stage, I am very 
sorry ; but I can at least affirm that the music proceeds in 
the most literal sense from my inmost being. It is not 
manufactured and forced. But enough of Oniegin. 

" Now a word as to my latest work, the Fourth Sym- 


must have reached Moscow by now. What 

wTTf you think of it ? I value your opinion highly, and 
fear your criticism. I know you are absolutely sincere, 
that is why I think so much of your judgment. I cherish 
one dream, one intense desire, which I hardly dare disclose, 
lest it should seem selfish. You must write and play, and 
play and write, for your own self, and you ought not to waste 
time on arrangements. There are but two men in Moscow 
nay, in the whole world to whom I would entrust the 
arrangement of my symphony for four hands. One of 
these is Klindworth, and the other a certain person who 
lives in the Oboukhov pereoulok. The latter would be all 
the dearer to me, if I were not afraid of asking too much. 
Do not hesitate to refuse my request. Yet if you feel 
able to say ' yes/ I shall jump for joy, although my 
corpulence would be rather an impediment to such be- 

To K. K. Albrecht. 

"SAN REMO, January %th (20^), 1878. 

" To-day I received your letter. Had it come a fortnight 
ago I should no doubt have reflected whether in refusing 
the office of delegate I had done something foolish or 
wrong. Now, however, the matter is decided, and on 
mature consideration I am convinced I was wise not to 
undertake a business so antipathetic to my temperament. 
. . . Let us thoroughly consider the question. In what 
way could I have been useful as a delegate : First, to the 
cause of Russian music, and secondly, to myself? 

" i. As regards Russian music. . . . What could I have 
done, under the circumstances, to interest the Parisians in 
our music ? How could I (unless funds were forthcoming) 
arrange concerts and evenings for chamber music ? What 
a poor figure I should have cut beside the other delegates, 
who were well supplied with money ! But even had funds 
been forthcoming, what could I have done ? Can I con- 
duct anything ? I might have beaten time to my own 
compositions, but I could not fill up the programmes with 
my works. I must, on the contrary, have put them aside 
in order to bring forward the compositions of Glinka, 
Dargomijsky, Serov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, and Borodin. 


And for all this I should have had to prepare myself, 
unless I risked bringing disgrace upon Russian music. 
That I should have disgraced it is certain. Then all 
Russia would have blamed me afterwards, and with justifi- 
cation. I do not deny the fact that a man of temperament, 
skill, and talent for organisation could do much. But you 
know that apart from my speciality I am a useless sort of 
being. So, you see, I should have been of no service to 
Russian music, even if the Government had allowed me 
sufficient money to carry out any plans. 

"2. As concerns myself. ... I must say that the idea of 
making the acquaintance of the Parisian musical lights 
seemed to me the most terrible part of the business. To 
make myself amiable and pay court to all the ragtag and 
bobtail is not in my line. Pride shows itself in many 
different ways. In my case it takes the form of avoiding 
all contact with people who do not know or appreciate 
my worth. For instance, it would be unbearable to have to 
stand humbly before Saint-Saens and to be honoured by 
his gracious condescension, when in my heart of hearts I 
feel myself as far above him as the Alps. In Paris my self- 
respect(which is very great in spite of my apparent modesty) 
would suffer hourly from having to mix with all kinds of 
celebrities who would look down upon me. To bring my 
works to their notice, to convince them that I am of some 
consequence this is impossible to me. . . . Now let us 
leave the question of my own reputation and speak of my 
health. Physically I feel very well, at any rate better than 
could be expected ; but mentally I am still far from sound. 
In a word, I am on the verge of insanity. I can only live 
in an atmosphere of complete quiet, quite away from all 
the turmoil of great cities. In order that you may realise 
how changed I am, let me tell you that now I spit yes, 
spit upon the thought of all success or notoriety abroad. 
I beg and pray one thing only : to be let alone. I would 
gladly be dropped in some remote desert, if I could thus 
avoid contact with my fellow-men. ... I cannot live 
without work, and when I can no longer compose I shall 
occupy myself with other musical matters. But I will not 
lift a finger to push my works in the world, because I do 
not care about it one way or the other. Anyone can play 


or sing my works if they please ; if no one pleases it is 
all the same to me, for, as I tell you, I spit, spit, spit upon 
the whole business ! ! ! Once again, I repeat : were I rich 
I should live in complete seclusion from the world and 
only occasionally visit Moscow, to which I am deeply at- 
tached. ... I am grieved, my dear Karl, that you are vexed 
with me. But listen : I have learnt from bitter experience 
that we cannot do violence to our nature without being 
punished for it. My whole self, every nerve, every fibre in 
me, protests against undertaking this post of delegate, and 
I subscribe to this protest. 

" Karl, I recommend to you most highly my latest work. 
I mean my symphony. Feel kindly towards it, for I cannot 
be at rest without your praise. You do not guess how I 
value your opinion. Give Kashkin my best thanks for his 
letter and show him this one by way of reply, as it will 
serve for him too. Your warm words about Eugene Oniegin 
are 1,000,000,000,000 times more to me than the condescen- 
sion of any Frenchmen. I embrace you both, and also 
Rubinstein. But as to fame, I spit, spit, yes, spit upon it." 

To. N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REMO, January itfh (26th), 1876. 
" Two nights running we have had a gale from the north- 
west. It howled and whistled until I had the shivers. 
Last night it rattled and shook my window so that I 
could not sleep and began to think over my life. I do not 
know whence it came, but suddenly a very pleasant thought 
passed through my mind. I thought that I had never yet 
shown my gratitude to you in its fullest extent, my best 
and dearest friend. I saw clearly that all you are doing for 
me, with such untiring goodness and sympathy, is so beyond 
measure generous that I am not really worthy of it. I 
recollected the crisis when I found myself on the verge of an 
abyss, and believed that all was over, that nothing remained 
but to vanish from the face of the earth, and how, at the 
same time, an inward voice reminded me of you and pre- 
dicted that you would hold out your hand to me. The inner 
voice proved true. You and my brothers have given me 
back my life. Not only am I still living, but I can work ; 


without work life has no meaning for me. I know you do 
not want me to be pouring out assurances of my gratitude 
every moment ; but let me say once for all that I owe you 
everything, everything ; that you have not only given me 
the means to come through a very difficult crisis without 
anxiety, but have brought the new elements of light and 
gladness into my life. I am now speaking of your friend- 
ship, my dear, kind Nadejda Filaretovna, and I assure you 
since I have found in you so eternally good a friend, I can 
never be quite unhappy again. Perhaps the time will 
come when I shall no longer require the material assist- 
ance you have bestowed upon me with such admirable 
delicacy of feeling, such fabulous generosity ; but I shall 
never be able to do without the moral aid and comfort I 
have derived from you. With my undecided character, 
which is innate in me, and with my faculty for getting out 
of heart, I am happy in the consciousness of having so 
good a friend at hand, who is always ready to help me and 
point out the right course of action. I know you will not 
only be the upholder of my good and wise achievements, 
but also a judge of my faults ; a compassionate judge, 
however, who has my welfare at heart. All this I said to 
myself as I lay awake last night, and determined to write 
it to you to-day. In doing so I am merely satisfying my 
great desire to open my heart to you. 

" Such a strange coincidence happened this morning ! A 
letter from N. Rubinstein 1 was put into my hands. He 
has returned from his journey, and lost no time in reply- 
ing to my letter, in which I excused myself for shirking 
the duties of delegate. His letter breathes savage wrath. 
This would not matter so much, but that the whole tone of 
the communication is so dry, so lacking in cordial feeling, 
so exaggerated ! He says my illness is a mere fraud, that I 
am only putting it on, that I prefer the dolce far niente 
aspect of life, that I am drifting away from my work, and 
that he deeply regrets having shown me so much sympathy, 
because it has only encouraged my indolence! ! ! etc., etc." 

This lack of sympathy and complete misunderstanding 
of his motives provoked a sharp reply on Tchaikovsky's 
1 Unfortunately this letter has been lost. 


part But in calmer moments he saw clearly all the 
artistic benefit he had derived from N. Rubinstein's friend- 
ship, and never ceased to feel grateful for it. 

To Nicholas Rubinstein. 
"SAN REMO, January \^th (zt>th\ 1878. 

". . . . I received your letter to-day. It would have an- 
noyed me very much, had I not told myself you were 
keeping in view my ultimate recovery. To my regret, 
however, you seem to see what is good for me precisely 
where I and several others see what is inimical to my 
health ; in the very thing which appears to me an unprofit- 
able and aimless exertion. . . . All you have written to me, 
and also your manner of saying it, only proves how little 
you know me, as I have frequently observed on former 
occasions. Possibly you may be right, and I am only put- 
ting it on ; but that is precisely the nature of my illness. 
. . . From your letter I can only gather the impression 
that in you I possess a great benefactor, and that I have 
proved an ungrateful and unworthy recipient of your favours. 
It is useless to try this tone ! I know how much I am in- 
debted to you ; but, in the first place, your reproaches cool 
my gratitude, and, secondly, it annoys me when you pose 
as a benefactor in a matter in which you have proved your- 
self quite the reverse. 

". . . But, enough of this. Let us rather speak of those 
things in which you have really been my benefactor. Not 
possessing any gifts as a conductor, I should certainly have 
failed to make a name, had not so admirable an interpreter 
of my works been always at hand. Without you I should 
have been condemned to perpetual maltreatment. You 
are the one man who has rightly understood my works. 
Your extraordinary artistic instinct enables you to take a 
difficult work without any previous study and carry it 
through with only two rehearsals. I must beg you once 
again to bring this power to bear upon my opera and sym- 
phony. As regards the former much as I desire it I 
shall not be hurt if you find it impossible to perform it this 
season. The symphony, on the other hand, must be given 
soon, for in many ways it would seriously inconvenience 


me if the performance were postponed. ... I have often 
told you that in spite of my loathing for the duties of 
a professor, and the thought of being tied for life to the 
Conservatoire, custom has now made it impossible for me 
to live anywhere but in Moscow and in your society." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"SAN REMO, January i$th (2 ^th\ 1878. 

" We have just returned from a beautiful excursion to 
Colla. . . . To-day was exquisite ; a real spring day. We 
hired a donkey for Kolya, 1 so that he might take part in the 
outing. It was not a very steep climb, and all the way 
the olive trees shut out the views of the sea and town, but 
all the same it was beautiful. Once I walked ahead of the 
others and sat under a tree, when suddenly there came over 
me that feeling of intense delight which I so often ex- 
perienced during my country rambles in Russia, and for 
which I have longed in vain since I have been here. I was 
alone in the solemn stillness of the woods. Such moments 
are wonderful, indescribable, not to be compared with any 
other experience. The indispensable condition is soli- 
tude. I always like walking alone in the country. The 
companionship of anyone as dear to me as my brother has 
its charms, but it is quite a different thing. In a word, I 
was happy. First of all I felt a great desire to write to 
you, and on the way home yet another pleasure awaited 
me. Do you love flowers? I am passionately fond of 
them, especially the wild flowers of the field and forest. 
To my mind the queen of flowers is the lily-of-the-valley ; 
I love it to distraction. Modeste, who is equally fond of 
flowers, is all for the violet, so that we often fall out on the 
subject. I declare that violets smell of pomade, and he 
retorts that my lilies look like nightcaps. In any case I 
recognise in the violet a dangerous rival to the lily-of-the- 
valley, and am very fond of it. There are plenty of violets 
to be bought in the streets here, but as I had failed to find 
a single flower, even after the most diligent search, I began 
to regard this as the special privilege of the children of the 
soil. To-day, on my way home, I had the luck to come 

1 Nicholas Konradi, pupil of Modeste Tchaikovsky, 


upon a place where they grew in profusion. This is the 
second subject of my letter. I send you a few sweet blos- 
soms gathered by my own hand. May they remind you of 
the South, the sun, and the sea ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REMO, January 2$th (February 6tA), 1878. 

" I am feeling splendidly well. My physical health is 
first-rate; my head clear and strong. I observe myself 
with delight, and have come to the conclusion that I am 
now completely recovered. Do you know, my dear friend, 
people have not been altogether wrong in reporting that I 
had gone out of my mind ? When I look back on all I did, 
and all the follies I committed, I am unwillingly forced to 
the conclusion that my brain was temporarily affected, and 
has only now returned to its normal state. Much in my 
recent condition now takes on the semblance of a strange 
dream ; something remote, a weird nightmare in which a 
man bearing my name, my likeness, and my consciousness 
acted as one acts in dreams: in a meaningless, disconnected, 
paradoxical way. That was not my sane self, in full 
possession of logical and reasonable will-powers. Every- 
thing I did then bore the character of an unhealthy conflict 
between will and intelligence, which is nothing less than 
insanity. Amid these nightmares which darkened my 
world during this strange and terrible but fortunately 
brief period, I clung for salvation to the one or two beings 
who were dearest to me, who seemed sent to draw me out 
of the abyss. To you, and to my two dear brothers, to all 
three of you, I owe, not only my life, but my mental and 
physical recovery." 

To P. L Jurgenson. 
"SAN REMO, January 26^/1 (February 7//fc), 1878. 

" Your letter reached me to-day, dear Peter Ivanovich. 
You are very kind. I am deeply touched by your 
liberality. All the same, I will not accept any money for 
the opera unless it should be performed in some important 
theatre, and, even then, nothing approaching to the large 
sum you propose. The fee for the symphony I wish to 


pass on to Taneiev. For the translations I cannot take 
anything from you, because I think them very poor. As 
regards a fee for the violin and 'cello pieces, we will speak 
of it later. 

"Dearest friend, I am only too thankful that you are 
not parsimonious to me and are so willing to publish my 
works. But this is nothing new. I have always appre- 
ciated your large-hearted liberality. Merci, merci, merci!" 

To Nicholas Rubinstein. 
"SAN REMO, January 30^ (February n///), 1878. 

"DEAR FRIEND, I have read your letter with great 
pleasure. ... If I expressed myself too sharply, please 
forget it. Now let us drop the subject entirely. 

" I think you have acted wisely in postponing my opera 
until next year. I agree with you that it is better to have 
it studied without undue haste and to perform the work in 
its entirety. You may rest assured that I shall not give 
the work to the Petersburg Conservatoire. So far, I have 
not been asked to do so ; if I were invited, I should refuse. 
I hope this letter may reach you about the moment of the 
first rehearsal of my (Fourth) Symphony. I am very 
anxious about the Scherzo. I think I told you that the 
quicker it can go, the better. Now I begin to think it 
should not be taken too fast. However, I entrust myself 
entirely to your intelligence, and believe you will find out 
the right tempo better than I can. 

" I have read your letter a second time. You ask if 
I care to have your advice. Of course I do. You know I 
am always ready to accept the advice of a judicious friend 
and that I have frequently sought yours, not only in 
matters concerning music, but in my daily life. It was not 
the advice you gave me in your letter which hurt me, but 
the harsh, dry tone (at least so it seemed to me) of your 
communication, the reproach to my indolence, and the in- 
sinuation that I only refused to go to Paris because N. von 
Meek was allowing me enough to live upon ; in short, you 
entirely misunderstood the true motives of my conduct. 

" I have become terribly misanthropical, and dread the 
thought of having to change my present mode of life, in 


which I hardly come in contact with anyone. At the same 
time I am weary of it, and would gladly relinquish all the 
natural beauties and the climate of this place to be once 
more in my beloved Moscow." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SAN REMO, February ist (i$th\ 1878. 

" MY DEAR FRIEND, Yesterday I forgot to thank you 
for the Schopenhauer. 1 

" Has not the thought occurred to you that now I am 
quite recovered I ought to return to Russia to take up my 
duties at the Conservatoire and my old ways of life ? The 
thought constantly passes through my mind, and perhaps 
it might be good for me in every way if I decided to act 
upon it. And yet, with all my longing for Russia, and 
my attachment to Moscow, I should find it terribly hard 
suddenly to give up this life of freedom and the convales- 
cence I am now enjoying, and return to my teaching and 
my various complications in a word, to my old life. I 
shudder at the very thought. Give me your frank opinion. 
Answer me this question, entirely oblivious of the fact that 
you are making me an allowance. The fact that I profited 
by your wealth to travel abroad for my health's sake does 
not weigh upon me seriously. I know the sentiment which 
prompted your offer of pecuniary assistance, and I have 
long since grown to regard the situation as quite normal. 
My relations with you are outside the scope of everyday 
friendship. From you I can accept assistance without any 
sense of embarrassment. This is not the difficulty. 

" Since Rubinstein told me I was drifting into indolence 
and feigning ill-health (that was his expression) I have been 
somewhat troubled by the thought that perhaps it was 
actually my duty to hasten back to Moscow. Help me to 
decide this question, kind friend, without showing me 
excessive indulgence. 

" On the other hand, if they have been able to do without 
me for six months, surely now when there remain but 
three months before the vacation I shall not be greatly 
missed ... To sum up the foregoing arguments : although 

1 The World as Will and Idea. 


I may now be equal to resuming my duties, it would be 
very hard upon me to be forced to do so, because I am most 
anxious to give myself a longer convalescence in order to 
return in September altogether a new man, having forgot- 
ten as far as forgetfulness is possible the unhappy 
events of six months ago. My request to you involves a 
strange contradiction. I ask you to tell me the truth and, 
without allowing yourself to be influenced by any side 
issues, to exact the fulfilment of my duty ; while at the 
same time you will read between the lines : for God's sake 
do not insist on my returning to Moscow now, for it will 
make me profoundly miserable. 

" I remember writing to you in a very depressed frame 
of mind from Florence, for I was out of spirits at the time. 
Florence itself was in no way to blame for my mood. Now 
I am feeling quite well again, I have conceived a great wish 
to return there, chiefly because Modeste has never been in 
Italy and I know how he would enjoy all the art treasures 
in that city. He has far greater feeling for the plastic arts 
than I have, and possibly his enthusiasm may be communi- 
cated to me. So I have decided to await the coming of 
spring in Florence and then go to Switzerland vid Mont 
Cenis. Early in April I shall return to Russia, probably to 
Kamenka, where I shall stay until September. 

" I will not attempt to conceal from you, most invaluable 
of friends, that the consciousness of having achieved two 
works on a large scale, in both of which, it seems to me, I 
have made a distinct advance, is a great source of consola- 
tion. The rehearsals for the symphony will commence 
soon. Would you find it possible if you are quite well 
by then to attend one of them ? One gains so much by 
hearing a new and lengthy work twice. I am so anxious 
you should like this symphony ! It is impossible to get a 
true idea of it at one hearing. The second time it grows 
clearer. Much that escapes us at first then attracts our 
attention ; the details fall into place ; the leading ideas 
assume their proper proportions as compared with the 
subordinate matter. It would be such an excellent thing 
if you could manage this. 

" I am in a rose-coloured mood. Glad the opera is 
finished, glad spring is at hand, glad I am well and free, 


glad to feel safe from unpleasant meetings, but happiest of 
all to possess in your friendship, and in my brothers' affec- 
tion, such sure props in life, and to be conscious that I may 
eventually perfect my art. I trust this feeling is no self- 
deception, but a just appreciation of my powers. I thank 
you for all, for all." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, February ^th (2ij/), 1878. 

" We arrived in Florence to-day. A charming and 
attractive town. I came here with the pleasantest feelings, 
and thought how different the place appeared to me two 
months ago. What a change has taken place in my mental 
state! What a sad and sorry creature I was then and 
now, how well I am! What glad days lie before me! Once 
again I am able to delight in life, in the full, luxuriant life 
of Italy. 

" This evening we wandered through the streets. How 
beautiful ! A mild evening ; the life and bustle of the 
thoroughfares; the brilliant illumination of the shop- 
windows ! What fun it is to mix with the crowd, un- 
known and unrecognised! Italy is beginning to cast over 
me her magic spell. I feel so free here, so cheerful, amid 
the turmoil and hum of life. 

"But in spite of the enjoyments of life in Italy, in spite of 
the good effect it has upon me I am, and shall ever be, 
faithful to my Russia. Do you know, I have never yet 
come across anyone so much in love with Mother Russia 
especially Great Russia as myself? The verses by 
Lermontov which you sent me only depict one side of our 
native land : that indefinable charm which lies in our 
modest, plain, poor, but wide and open landscape. I go 
further. I am passionately devoted to the Russian people, 
to the language, to the Russian spirit, to the fine Russian 
type of countenance and to Russian customs. Lermontov 
says frankly : * the sacred traditions of our past ' do not 
move his soul. I love these traditions. I believe my 


sympathy for the Orthodox faith, the tenets of which have 
long been undermined in me by destructive criticism, has 
its source in my innate affection for its national element. 
I could not say what particular virtue or quality it is which 
endears Russia and the Russians to me. No doubt such 
qualities exist. A lover, however, does not love for such 
reasons, but because he cannot help himself. 

" This is why I feel so angry with those among us who 
are ready to perish of hunger in a garret in Paris, and who 
seem to enjoy running down everything Russian ; who can 
spend their whole lives abroad without regret, on the 
grounds that there are fewer comforts to be had in Russia. 
I hate these people ; they trample in the mud all that to 
me is inexpressibly precious and sacred. 

"But to return to Italy. It would be a heavy punish- 
ment to be condemned to spend my life in this beautiful 
land ; but a temporary sojourn here is another matter. 
Everything in Italy exercises a charm for one who is 
travelling for health and relaxation. . . . This conviction 
has so gained ground with me that I am beginning to 
wonder if, instead of going to Switzerland, it might not be 
better to visit Naples. Naples continually beckons and 
calls to me ! I have not yet definitely decided. It will be 
wiser to think it over. Of course I shall let you know the 
result of my reflections in good time. 

" I think you must have been amused by the letter in 
which I told you I was going to give you a brief outline of 
Schopenhauer's philosophy. It is evident that you are 
thoroughly acquainted with the subject, while I have hardly 
yet reached the essential question : the moral aspect of 
the matter. It strikes me you make a very just evaluation 
of his curious theories. His final deductions contain some- 
thing hurtful to human dignity, something dry and egotis- 
tical, which is not warmed by any love towards mankind. 
However, as I have said, I have not yet got to the root of 
the matter. In the exposition of his views upon the mean- 
ing of intelligence and will, and their interrelationship, 
there is much truth and ingenuity. Like yourself, I marvel 
how a man who has never attempted to carry out in his 
own life his theories of austere asceticism should preach to 
others the complete renunciation of all the joys of life. In 


any case the book interests me immensely, and I hope to 
discuss it further with you after a more thorough study of 
its contents. Meanwhile, just one observation : how can a 
man who takes so low a view of human intelligence, and 
accords it so subordinate a position, display at the same 
time such self-assurance, such a haughty belief in the in- 
fallibility of his own reason, heaping contempt upon the 
views of others, and regarding himself as the sole arbiter 
of truth? What a contradiction ! To declare at each step 
that the reasoning faculty in man is something fortuitous, 
a function of the brain (therefore merely a physiological 
function), and as weak and imperfect as all human things 
and at the same time to set such value upon his own pro- 
cess of reasoning ! A philosopher like Schopenhauer, who 
goes so far as to deny to mankind anything beyond an 
instinctive desire to perpetuate his species, ought, first of 
all, to be prepared to acknowledge the complete uselessness 
of all systems of philosophy. A man who is convinced 
that non-existence is the best thing of all should endeavour 
to act up to his conviction ; should suppress himself, anni- 
hilate himself, and leave those in peace who desire to live. 
So far, I cannot quite make out whether he really believes 
himself to be doing mankind a great service by his philoso- 
phy. What use is it to prove to us that there can be nothing 
more lamentable than existence? If the blind instinct of 
perpetuation is so strong in us, if no power suffices to 
weaken our love of individual life, why should he poison 
this life with his pessimism? What end does this serve? 
It might seem as though he were advocating suicide ; but 
on the contrary, he forbids self-destruction. These are 
questions which arise in my mind, and to which perhaps I 
may find answers when I have finished the book. 

"You ask me, my friend, if I have known love other 
than platonic. Yes and no. If the question had been 
differently put, if you had asked me whether I had ever 
found complete happiness in love, I should have replied no, 
and again, no. Besides, I think the answer to this question 
is to be heard in my music. If, however, you ask me 
whether I have felt the whole power and inexpressible 
stress of love, I must reply yes, yes, yes ; for often and 
often have I striven to render in music all the anguish and 


the bliss of love. Whether I have been successful I do not 
know, or rather I leave others to judge. I do not in the 
least agree with you that music cannot interpret the univer- 
sal nature of love. On the contrary, I think only music is 
capable of doing so. You say words are necessary. O no ! 
This is just where words are not needed, and where they 
have no power ; a more eloquent language comes in, which 
is music. Look at the poetical forms to which poets have 
recourse in order to sing of love ; they simply usurp the 
spheres which belong inseparably to music. Words clothed 
in poetical forms cease to be mere words ; they become 
partly music. The best proof that love-poetry is really 
more music than words lies in the fact that such poetry 
if you read it carefully from the point of view of words 
rather than of music contains very little meaning. (I refer 
you to the poet Fet, whom I greatly admire.) And yet it 
has a meaning, and a very profound one, although it is 
more musical than literary. 

" I am delighted that you value instrumental music so 
highly. Your observation that words often spoil music 
and degrade it from its highest level is perfectly true. I 
have often felt this very keenly, and perhaps therein lies 
the reason why I am more successful with instrumental 
than with vocal music." 

On February loth (22nd), Tchaikovsky's Fourth Sym- 
phony was performed for the first time at one of the 
symphony concerts of the Russian Musical Society. It 
did not produce, either upon the public or the Press, that 
impression which the composer had confidently awaited. 
Most of the papers passed it over in silence, and the 
remainder only record an indifferent success, both for the 
work and its performance. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"FLORENCE, February i2th (24^), 1878. 

" Early yesterday came your telegram, dear friend. It 
gave me inexpressible pleasure. I was more than anxious 
to know how you liked the Symphony. Probably you 


would have given me some friendly sign of your sympathy, 
even if you had not cared much about it. From the warm 
tone of your telegram, however, I see that you are satisfied, 
on the whole, with the work which was written for you. In 
my heart of hearts I feel sure it is the best thing I have" 
done so far. It seems rather strange that not one of my 
friends in Moscow has thought it worth while to give me 
any news of the Symphony, although I sent off the score 
nearly six weeks ago. At the same time as your telegram 
I received one signed by Rubinstein and all the others. 
But it only stated the fact that the work had been very 
well performed. Not a word as to its merits ; perhaps that 
is intended to be understood. Thank you for your news 
of the success of 'my favourite child/ and the cordial words 
of your telegram. My thoughts were in the concert-room. 
I calculated the moment when the opening phrase would 
be heard, and endeavoured, by following every detail, to 
realise the effect of my music upon the public. _ The first 
012Y^OienJL{the_most complicated, but alsojthe_best) is proJ>~ 
ably far too long, and would not be completely understood 
aT the rirst hearing. The other movements are simple. . . . 
- "liiarverTrot finished Schopenhauer yet, and am saving up 
my opinions upon it for some future letter. I have been 
twice with my brother to the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti. 
Thanks to Modeste, I took in a good many artistic impres- 
sions. He was lost in ecstasy before the masterpieces of 
Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. We also visited an 
exhibition of modern pictures, and discovered a few fine 
works. If I am not mistaken, the spirit of realism has 
entered into modern Italian painting. All the pictures 
I have seen here by painters of the present day are 
more remarkable for the truthful presentment of details 
than for profound or poetic thought. The figures are very 
lifelike, even when the conception is crude. For instance, 
a page drawing aside a curtain ; both page and curtain are 
so real that one actually expects to see some movement. 
An old Pompeiian woman, leaning back in an ancient 
chair and indulging in a burst of Homeric laughter, makes 
one want to laugh too. All this has no pretensions to 
profound thought, but the drawing and colouring are 
astonishingly truthful. 


" As regards music, Italy is in a bad way. Such a town 
as Florence, for instance, has no opera house. There are 
theatres, but nothing is given in them because there is no 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, February i6th (28^), 1878. 

". . . Of all that I have seen here the chapel of the 
Medici in San Lorenzo has made the most profound im- 
pression upon me. It is grandiose and beautiful. Here, 
for the first time, I realised the greatness of Michael 
Angelo in its fullest significance. I think he has a spiritual 
affinity with Beethoven. The same breadth and power, 
the same daring courage, which sometimes almost oversteps 
the limits of the beautiful, the same dark and troubled 
moods. Probably this idea is not original. Taine gives a 
very ingenious comparison between Raphael and Mozart. 
But whether anyone has ever drawn a parallel between 
Michael Angelo and Beethoven I cannot say. 

" I have finished Schopenhauer. I do not know what 
impression this philosophy might have made upon me had 
I come to know it in some other place, under different 
surroundings. Here it seems to me only a brilliant para- 
dox. I think Schopenhauer's inconsequence lies in his 
ultimate conclusions. When he has proved that non- 
existence is better than existence, we say to ourselves : 
granted, but what are we to do? It is in his reply to this 
question that he shows his weakness. Logically, his 
theories lead direct to suicide. But Schopenhauer evi- 
dently shrinks from this dangerous method of shifting the 
burden of life, and not daring to recommend self-destruc- 
tion as a universal method of carrying his philosophy into 
practice, he falls into a curious sophistry and endeavours to 
prove that the man who commits suicide merely lays stress 
on his love of life. This is neither logical nor ingenious. 
As regards ' Nirvana,' this is a species of insanity not 
worth discussion. But, in any case, I have read Schopen- 
hauer with the greatest interest, and found in him much 
that is extraordinarily clever. His definition of love is 
original, although a few details are somewhat distorted 


and wrested from the truth. You are quite right in saying 
that we must regard with suspicion the views of a philoso- 
pher who bids us renounce all joy in life and stamp out 
every lust of the flesh, while he himself, without any 
qualms of conscience, enjoyed the pleasures of existence 
to the day of his death, and had a very good notion of 
managing his affairs for the best." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, February 17 th (March \st\ 1878. 

"What joy your letter brought me to-day, dearest 
Nadejda Filaretovna! I am inexpressibly delighted that 
the symphony pleases you : that, hearing it, you felt just as 
I did while writing it, and that my music found its way to 
your heart. 

" You ask if in composing this symphony I had a special 
programme in view. To such questions regarding my sym- 
phonic works I generally answer : nothing of the kind. In 
reality it is very difficult to answer this question. How 
interpret those vague feelings which pass through one 
during the composition of an instrumental work, without 
reference to any definite subject ? It is a purely lyrical 
process. A kind of musical shriving of the soul, in which 
there is an encrustation of material which flows forth again 
in notes, just as the lyrical poet pours himself out in verse. 
The difference consists in the fact that music possesses far 
richer means of expression, and is a more subtle medium 
in which to translate the thousand shifting moments in 
the mood of a soul. Generally speaking, the germ of a 
future composition comes suddenly and unexpectedly. If 
the soil is ready that is to say, if the disposition for work 
is there it takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, 
shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches, leaves, 
and, finally, blossoms. I cannot define the creative process 
in any other way than by this simile. The great difficulty 
is that the germ must appear at a favourable moment, the 
rest goes of itself. It would be vain to try to put into 
words that immeasurable sense of bliss which comes over 
me directly a new idea awakens in me and begins to assume 


a definite form. I forget everything and behave like a 
madman. Everything within me starts pulsing and quiver- 
ing ; hardly have I begun the sketch ere one thought 
follows another. In the midst of this magic process it 
frequently happens that some external interruption wakes 
me from my somnambulistic state : a ring at the bell, the 
entrance of my servant, the striking of the clock, reminding 
me that it is time to leave off. Dreadful, indeed, are such 
interruptions. Sometimes they break the thread of inspira- 
tion for a considerable time, so that I have to seek it again 
often in vain. In such cases cool head work and technical 
knowledge have to come to my aid. Even in the works of 
the greatest master we find such moments, when the 
organic sequence fails and a skilful join has to be made, so 
that the parts appear as a completely welded whole. 
But it cannot be avoided. If that condition of mind and 
soul, which we call inspiration, lasted long without inter- 
mission, no artist could survive it. The strings would 
break and the instrument be shattered into fragments. It 
is already a great thing if the main ideas and general 
outline of a work come without any racking of brains, as 
the result of that supernatural and inexplicable force we 
call inspiration. 

" However, I have wandered from the point without 
answering your question. Our symphony has a programme. 
That is to say, it is possible to express its contents in 
words, and I will tell you and you alone the meaning of 
the entire work and of its separate movements. Natur- 
ally I can only do so as regards its general features. 

" The Introduction is the germ, the leading_idea of the 
whole work. 

"This is Fate, that inevitable force which checks our 
aspirations towards happiness"~eTe~Triey reach the goaf 

which watches jealously lest our peace and bliss should be 
complete and cloudless a force which, like the sword" of 



Damocles, hangs perpetually over our heads and is always 
embittering the soul. This force is inescapable and in- 
vincible. There is no other course but to submit and 
inwardly lament. 


"The sense of hopeless despair grows stronger and more 
poignant. Is it not better to turn from reality and lose 
ourselves in dreams ? 


O joy ! A sweet and tender dream enfolds me. A bright 
and serene presence leads me on. 

How fair ! How remotely now is heard the first theme of 
the Allegro! Deeper and deeper the soul is sunk in dreams. 
All that was dark and joyless is forgotten. 

11 Here is happiness ! 

" It is but a dream, Fate awakens us roughly. 

So all life is but a continual alternation between grim 
truth and fleeting dreams of happiness. There is no 
haven. The waves drive us hither and thither, until the 
sea engulfs us. This is, approximately, the programme of 
the first movement. 


"The second movement expresses another phase of 
suffering. Now it is the melancholy which steals over us 
when at evening we sit indoors alone, weary of work, while 
the .book we have picked up for relaxation slips unheeded 
from our ringers. A long procession of old memories goes 
^oy. How sad to~think how much is already past and gone! 
And yet these recollections of youth are sweet We regret 
the past, although we have neither courage nor desire to 
start a new life. We are rather weary of existence. We 
would fain rest awhile and look back, recalling many 
things. There were moments when young blood pulsed 
warm through our veins and lifej^aye all we asked. There 
were also moments of sorrow, irreparable loss' All this 
has receded so far into the past. Howjsad, yet sweet to 
lose ourselves therein ! 

" In the third movement no definite feelings find expres- 
sion. Here^we Have only capricious arabesque^ intangible 

Torins v which come into ji/man's head when he has been 
"drinking wine and his ^nerves are jjjther excited. His 
mood is neither" joyfuT^orsad He~thinks of nothing in 

__ particular: His fancyTsT'eer to follow its own Hjight, and 
it designs the strangest patterns. Suddenly memory calls 
up the picture of a tipsy peasant'and a street song. From 
afar come the sounds of a military band. These are the 
kind of confused images which pass through our brains as 
we fall asleep. They have no connection with actuality, 
but are simply wild, strange, and bizarre. 

"The fourth movement. If you can find no reasons for 
happiness in_.yourself. look at others. Go to the people. 
Seehow they can enjoy ^ife jmdjjiyeTt^m^ejyej; ^ 
to festivity. A rustic^ holiday isdepicted.' Hardly have 

r we had time to forget_ourselves in the spectacle of other 
people's pleasure, when indefatigable Fate reminds us once 
more of its presence. Others pay no heed to us. They 
do not spare us a glance, nor stop to observe that we are 
lonely and sad. How merry, how glad they all are ! All 
their feelings are so inconsequent, so simple. And will you 
still say that all the world is immersed in sorrow ? Hap- 
piness does exist, simple and unspoilt. Be glad in others' 
gladness. This makes life possible. 

" I can tell you no more, dear friend, about the symphony. 


Naturally my description is not very clear or satisfactory. 
But there lies the peculiarity of instrumental music ; we 
cannot analyse it. ' Where words leave off, music begins/ 
as Heine has said. 

" It is growing late. I will not tell you anything about 
Florence in this letter. Only one thing that I shall always 
keep a happy memory of this place. 

" P.S. Just as I was putting my letter into the envelope 
I began to read it again, and to feel misgivings as to the 
confused and incomplete programme which I am sending 
you. For the first time in my life I have attempted to put 
my musical thoughts and forms into words and phrases. I 
have not been very successful. I was horribly out of spirits 
all the time I was composing this symphony last winter, 
and this is a true echo of my feelings at the time. But 
only an echo. How is it possible to reproduce it in clear 
and definite language? I do not know. I have already 
forgotten a good deal. Only the general impression of my 
passionate and sorrowful experiences has remained. I am 
very, very anxious to know what my friends in Moscow say 
of my work. 

" Last night I went to the People's Theatre, and was very 
much amused. Italian humour is coarse, and lacks grace 
and delicacy, but it carries everything before it." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"FLORENCE, February 2oM (March tfh\ 1878. 
"To-day is the last day but one of the Carnival. . . . 
My window is open. I am drinking in with delight the 
cool night air after a hot spring day. How strange, how 
odd, but yet how sweet, to think of my dear and distant 
country! There it is still winter ! Probably you are sitting 
near the stove in your study. Fur-clad figures go to and 
fro in your house. The silence is unbroken by any sound 
of wheels, since all conveyances are turned into sleighs. 
How far we are apart ! You amid winter snows, and I in 
a land where spring is green, and my window stands open 
at II p.m.! And yet I look back with affection to our 
seasons. I love our long, hard winters. How beautiful it 
is ! How magical is the suddenness of our spring, when it 


bursts upon us with its first message ! I delight in the 
trickle of melting snow in the streets, and the sense of 
something life-giving and exhilarating that pervades the 
atmosphere ! With what delight we welcome the first blade 
of grass, the first sprouting seed, the arrival of the lark and 
all our summer guests ! Here, spring comes by gradual 
stages, so that we cannot actually fix the time of its 

" Do you remember I once wrote to you from Florence 
about a boy with a lovely and touching voice ? A few days 
ago I met some street-singers, and inquired about him. 
They knew him, and promised to bring him to me on the 
Lung' Arno at nine o'clock. Punctual to the moment I 
appeared at the place of meeting. The man who had 
promised was there with the boy. A curious crowd stood 
around them. As the numbers increased, I beckoned him 
aside and led the way into a side street I had my doubts 
as to whether it was the same boy. 'As soon as I begin to 
sing,' he said, 'you will be convinced that I am the same. 
Give me a silver piece of fifty centimes first.' These words 
were spoken in a glorious voice, which seemed to come 
from his inmost soul. What I felt when he began to sing 
is beyond all words ! 

" I wept, I trembled, I was consumed with pure delight. 
He sang once more, ' Perche tradirmi, perche lasciarmi ! ' 
I do not remember any simple folksong ever having made 
such an impression upon me. This time the lad sang me 
a charming new melody, which I intend to make him sing 
again, so that I may write it down for my own use on 
some future occasion. I pitied this child. He seems to be 
exploited by his father and other relatives. Just now, 
during the Carnival, he is made to sing from morning till 
night, and will continue to do so until his voice vanishes 
for good and all. ... If he belonged to a respectable 
family he might have some chance of becoming a great 
artist. One must live for a time with Italians in order to 
understand their supremacy in vocal art. Even as I write, 
I can hear in the distance a wonderful tenor singing some 
song with all his might. But even when the quality of 
the voice is not beautiful, every Italian can boast that he is 
a singer by nature. They all have a true emission (pro- 


duction), and sing from their chests, not from their throats 
and noses as we do." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March $rd (15^), 1878. 

" I have been very much occupied with music the last 
few days, as the weather has made going out impossible. 
To-day I played nearly all day with Kotek. Do you 
know the Symphonie Espagnole, by the French composer, 
Lalo ? The piece has been recently brought out by that 
very modern violinist, Sarasate. It is for solo violin and 
orchestra, and consists of five independent movements, based 
upon Spanish folksongs. The work has given me great 
enjoyment. It is so fresh and light, and contains piquant 
rhythms and melodies which are beautifully harmonised. 
It resembles many other works of the modern French 
school with which I am acquainted. Like Leo Delibes 
and Bizet, Lalo is careful to avoid all that is routinier, 
seeks new forms without trying to be profound, and is 
more concerned with musical beauty than with tradition, 
as are the Germans. The young generation of French 
composers is really very promising." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March $th (17^), 1878. 

"It is delightful to talk to you about my own methods 
of composition. So far I have never had any opportunity 
of confiding to anyone these hidden utterances of my 
inner life ; partly because very few would be interested, 
and partly because, of these few, scarcely one would know 
how to respond to me properly. To you, and you alone, 
I gladly describe all the details of the creative process, 
because in you I have found one who has a fine feeling 
and can understand my music. 

"Do not believe those who try to persuade you that 
composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The 
only music capable of moving and touching us is that 
which flows from the depths of a composer's soul when he 
is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the 


greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without 
inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the 
first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respect- 
ing artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he 
is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without 
endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become 
indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe 
that inspiration will come to those who can master their 
disinclination. A few days ago I told you I was working 
every day without any real inspiration. Had I given way 
to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted 
into a long period of idleness. But my patience and faith 
did not fail me, and to-day I felt that inexplicable glow 
of inspiration of which I told you ; thanks to which 
I know beforehand that whatever I write to-day will have 
power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of 
those who hear it. I hope you will not think I am in- 
dulging in self-laudation, if I tell you that I very seldom 
suffer from this disinclination to work. I believe the 
reason for this is that I am naturally patient. I have 
learnt to master myself, and I am glad I have not followed 
in the steps of some of my Russian colleagues, who 
have no self-confidence and are so impatient that at the 
least difficulty they are ready to throw up the sponge. 
This is why, in spite of great gifts, they accomplish so 
little, and that in an amateur way. 

You ask me how I manage my instrumentation. I never 
compose in the abstract ; that is to say, the musical thought 
never appears otherwise than in a suitable external form. 
In this way I invent the musical idea and the instrumenta- 
tion simultaneously. Thus I thought out the scherzo of 
our symphony at the moment of its composition exactly 
as you heard it. It is inconceivable except as pizzicato. 
Were it played with the bow, it would lose all its charm 
and be a mere body without a soul. 

As regards the Russian element in my works, I may 
tell you that not infrequently I begin a composition with 
the intention of introducing some folk-melody into it. 
Sometimes it comes of its own accord, unintentionally (as 
in the finale of our symphony). As to this national ele- 
ment in my work, its affinity with the folksongs in some of 


my melodies and harmonies proceeds from my having 
spent my childhood in the country, and having, from my 
earliest years, been impregnated with the characteristic 
beauty of our Russian folk-music. I am passionately fond 
of the national element in all its varied expressions. In a 
word, I am Russian in the fullest sense of the word." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March >]th (19^), 1872. 

" The wintry weather still continues. To-day it has 
never ceased snowing. However, I am not at all bored, 
and time passes very quickly while I am at work. The 
sonata and concerto interest me greatly. For the first 
time in my life I have begun to work at a new piece before 
finishing the one on hand. Hitherto I have invariably- 
followed the rule not to take up a new composition until 
the old was completed. This time I could not resist the 
pleasure of sketching out the concerto, and allowed myself 
to be so carried away that the sonata has been set aside ; 
but I return to it at intervals. 

" I have read the two volumes of Russian Antiquities 
with delight. As they were already cut, I conclude you 
have read them yourself. 

"Do you not think, dear friend, that Serov's letters are 
extremely interesting ? At least I find them so, because I 
well remember the period to which the correspondence 
belongs. I made Serov's acquaintance just at the moment 
when Judith^ was first performed, and I attended many 
of the rehearsals. The work roused my enthusiasm at the 
time, and Serov seemed to me a genius. Afterwards I was 
bitterly disappointed in him, not only as a man, but as a 
composer. His personality was never very sympathetic to 
me. His petty vanity and self-adoration, which often 
showed themselves in the most na'fve way, were repugnant 
and incomprehensible in so gifted and clever a man. For 
he was remarkably clever in spite of his small-minded 

"All the same, he was an interesting personality. At 
the age of forty-three he had not composed anything at all ; 

1 Serov's first opera. 


he had made some attempts, but was either inflated by his 
self-admiration, or else he entirely lost heart Finally, 
after twenty-five years of irresolution, he set to work upon 
Judith, and astonished the world, which expected from 
him a dull and pretentious work, in the style of Grand 
Opera. It was supposed that a man who had reached 
maturity without having produced a single composition 
could not be greatly gifted. But the world was wrong. 
The novice of forty-three presented the public of St. Peters- 
burg with an opera which, in every respect, must be 
described as beautiful, and shows no indications whatever of 
being the composer's first work. I do not know whether 
you have heard Judith, dear friend ; the opera has many 
good points. It is written with unusual warmth, and some- 
times rises to great emotional heights. It had considerable 
success with the public, and was extraordinarily well re- 
ceived by musical circles, especially by the younger genera- 
tion. Serov, who had hitherto been unknown, and led 
a very humble life, in which he had been obliged to fight 
poverty, became suddenly the hero of the hour, the idol of 
a certain set, in fact, a celebrity. This unexpected success 
turned his head, and he began to regard himself as a 
genius. The childishness with which he sings his own 
praises in his letters is quite remarkable. Never before 
was there such originality of style, or such beauty of 
melody. And Serov actually had proved himself a gifted 
composer, but not a genius of the first order. His second 
opera, Rogneda, is already a falling off from the first. 
Here he is evidently striving for effect, frequently degener- 
ates into the commonplace, and attempts to impress the 
gallery by coarse and startling effects. This is all the 
more remarkable because, as a true Wagnerian, he inveighed 
in speech and in writing against Meyerbeer's vulgar and 
flashy style. The Power of the Evil One is still weaker. 
Serov is, in reality, a very peculiar and interesting musical 
phenomenon. If we consider his voluminous critical 
articles, we shall observe that his practice does not agree 
with his principles ; he composes his music on methods 
diametrically opposed to those which he advocates in his 
writings. I have held forth at length upon Serov, because 
I am still under the influence of his letters, which I read 


yesterday, and all day to-day I can think of nothing else. 
I recall the arrogance with which he behaved to me, and 
how I longed for his recognition. Now I know that this 
very clever and highly cultured man possessed one weak- 
ness : he could not appreciate anyone but himself. He 
disparaged the success of others ; detested those who had 
become famous in his own art, and frequently gave way to 
impulses of small-minded egotism. On the other hand, 
one forgave him all, on account of what he suffered before 
success raised him from poverty, and because he bore his 
troubles in a strong, manly spirit for love of his art. Hav- 
ing regard to his birth, education, and connections, he 
might have had a brilliant career, but his love for music 
won the day. How painful it was to me to learn from his 
letters that he met with neither support nor encouragement 
at home but, on the contrary, with derision, mistrust, and 
hostility ! 

" I do not know how to thank you, my dear, for the 
collection of poems you have sent me. I am particularly 
delighted with those of A. Tolstoi, of whom I am very 
fond, and apart from my intention to use some of his 
words for songs it will be a great pleasure to read a few 
of his .longer poems again. I am specially interested in 
his Don Juan, which I read long ago." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March \^th (26^), 1878. 

" I have just been reading the newspapers, and am 
thoroughly depressed. Undoubtedly a war is imminent. 
It is terrible. It seems to me that now I am no longer 
absorbed in my personal troubles, I feel far more keenly all 
the wounds inflicted upon our Fatherland, although I have 
no doubt that in the end Russia indeed, the whole 
Slavonic world will triumph, if only because we have 
truth and honour on our side. I am glad I shall be in 
Russia during the war. How many unpleasant moments 
have I endured abroad, seeing the satisfaction {Schaden- 
freude} which greeted the news of every small misfortune 
that befell us, and the ill-feeling which was provoked 
by any victory on our part ! Let us hope our cup of 


bitterness may pass from us. There are good men to be 
found among us in every walk of life with one excep- 
tion. I am now speaking of my own special line. 
Whether the '(Moscow) Conservatoire was somewhat too 
forcibly planted upon Muscovite soil by the despotic hand 
of N. Rubinstein, or whether the Russian intellect is not 
made to grasp the theory of music, it is certain that there 
is nothing more difficult than to find a good teacher of 
harmony. I have come to this conclusion because in 
spite of the low valuation I set upon my teaching capacities, 
in spite, too, of my loathing for a professor's work I am 
indispensable to the Conservatoire. If I resigned my 
post, it would be hardly possible to find anyone to take 
my place. This is the reason why I hold it to be my duty 
to remain there until I feel sure the institution would not 
suffer from my departure. I am telling you all this, my 
dear, because I have been constantly wondering of late 
whether it might not be possible to slip this heavy load 
from my shoulders. 

" How unpleasant teaching will be after these months of 
freedom ! I can give you no adequate idea how derogatory 
this kind of work can be to a man who has not the smallest 
vocation for it. Among the male students I have to deal 
with a considerable number of raw youths who intend, 
however, to make music their profession : violinists, horn- 
players, teachers, and so on. Although it is very hard to 
have to explain to such lads, for twelve consecutive years, 
that a triad consists of a third and fifth, I feel at least that 
I am instilling into them some indispensable knowledge. 
Here, at any rate, I am of some use. But the ladies' 
classes ! O Lord ! Out of the sixty or seventy girls who 
attend my harmony lessons there are, at the utmost, five 
who will really turn out musicians. All the rest come to 
the Conservatoire simply for occupation, or from motives 
which have nothing to do with music. It cannot be said 
that these young ladies are less intelligent, or industrious, 
than the men. Rather the reverse ; the women are more 
conscientious and make greater efforts. They take in a new 
rule far quicker but only up to a certain point. Directly 
this rule ceases to be applied mechanically, and it becomes 
a question of initiative, all these young women, although 


inspired with the best intentions in the world, come hope- 
lessly to grief. I often lose my patience and my head, 
forget all that is going on, and go into a frantic rage, as 
much with myself as with them. I think a more patient 
teacher might produce better results. What makes one 
despair is the thought that it is all to no purpose : a mere 
farce ! Out of the crowd of girls I have taught in the 
Conservatoire only a very small number came to the 
classes with a serious aim in view. For how few of them 
is it worth while to torment and exhaust myself, to wear 
myself to thread-paper ! For how few is my teaching 
of any real importance ! There are many other unpleasant 
aspects of my work. 

"And yet I am bound to continue it. I am delighted at 
what you tell me about my pupils' sympathy. I always 
feel they must hate me for my irritability, which sometimes 
overstepped the bounds of reason; as well as for my 
scolding and eternal discontent. I was very glad to be 
convinced of the contrary." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 

"CLARENS, March \$th (27 th), 1878. 

"... The violin concerto is rapidly nearing completion. 
I hit upon the idea quite accidentally, began to work at it, 
was completely carried away, and now the sketch is all but 
finished. Altogether a considerable number of new com- 
positions are hanging over your head : seven little pieces, 
two songs, and a pianoforte sonata which I have begun. 
By the end of the summer I shall have to engage a railway 
truck to convey them all to you. I can hear your energetic 
expletive : ' The devil take you ! ' " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March \6th (28^), 1878. 

"Yesterday I received your letter with the news of 
Rubinstein's concert. I am so glad you were pleased with 
my concerto. I was convinced from the first that Nicholas 
Grigorievich would play it splendidly. The work was 
originally intended for him, and took into consideration 


his immense virtuosity. It is good to see from your letter 
how attentively you follow every new musical event. 
Hardly has a new concerto by Max Bruch appeared 
than you know all about it. I do not know it yet; nor 
the concerto by Goldmark which you mention. I only 
know one of his orchestral works, the overture to Sakun- 
tala, and a quartet. Both compositions are clever and 
sympathetic. Goldmark is one of the few German com- 
posers who possess some originality and freshness of 

" Why do you not care for Mozart ? In this respect our 
opinions differ, dear friend. I not only like Mozart, I 
idolise him. To me the most beautiful opera ever written 
is Don Juan. You, who possess such a fine musical taste, 
must surely love this pure and ideal artist. It is true 
Mozart used up his forces too generously, and often wrote 
without inspiration, because he was compelled by want. 
But read his biography by Otto Jahn, and you will see 
that he could not help it. Even Bach and Beethoven 
have left a considerable number of inferior works which 
are not worthy to be spoken of in the same breath as 
their masterpieces. Fate compelled them occasionally 
to degrade their art to the level of a handicraft. But 
think of Mozart's operas, of two or three of his sym- 
phonies, his Requiem, the six quartets dedicated to Haydn, 
and the D minor string quintet. Do you feel no charm 
in these works ? True, Mozart reaches neither the depths 
nor heights of Beethoven. And since in life, too, he 
remained to the end of his days a careless child, his 
music has not that subjectively tragic quality which is so 
powerfully expressed in that of Beethoven. But this did 
not prevent him from creating an objectively tragic type, 
the most superb and wonderful human presentment ever 
depicted in music. I mean Donna Anna, in Don Juan. 
Ah, how difficult it is to make anyone else see and feel 
in music what we see and feel ourselves ! I am quite in- 
capable of describing to you what I felt on hearing Don 
Juan, especially in the scene where the noble figure of the 
beautiful, proud, revengeful woman appears on the stage. 
Nothing in any opera ever impressed me so profoundly. 
And afterwards, when Donna Anna recognises in Don 


Juan the man who has wounded her pride and killed her 
father, and her wrath breaks out like a rushing torrent in 
that wonderful recitative, or in that later aria, in which 
every note in the orchestra seems to speak of her wrath 
and pride and actually to quiver with horror I could cry 
out and weep under the overwhelming stress of the emo- 
tional impression. And her lament over her father's 
corpse, the duet with Don Ottavio, in which she vows 
vengeance, her arioso in the great sextet in the churchyard 
these are inimitable, colossal operatic scenes ! 

" I am so much in love with the music of Don Juan that 
even as I write to you I could shed tears of agitation and 
emotion. In his chamber music, Mozart charms me by his 
purity and distinction of style and his exquisite handling of 
the parts. Here, too, are things which can bring tears to 
our eyes. I will only mention the adagio of the D minor 
string quintet. No one else has ever known as well how 
to interpret so exquisitely in music the sense of resigned 
and inconsolable sorrow. Every time Laub played the 
adagio I had to hide in the farthest corner of the concert- 
room, so that others might not see how deeply this music 
affected me. . . . 

" I could go on to eternity holding forth to you upon 
this sunny genius, for whom I cherish a cult. Although I 
am very tolerant to other people's musical views, I must 
confess, my dear, that I should like very much to convert 
you to Mozart. I know that would be difficult. I have met 
one or two others, besides yourself, who have a fine feeling 
for music, yet nevertheless failed to appreciate Mozart. I 
should have tried in vain to make them discover the 
beauties of his music. Our musical sympathies are often 
affected by purely external circumstances. The music of 
Don Juan was the first which stirred me profoundly. It 
roused in me a divine enthusiasm which was not without 
after-results. Through its medium I was transplanted to 
that region of artistic beauty where only genius dwells. 
Previously I had only known the Italian opera. It is 
thanks to Mozart that I have devoted my life to music. 
All these things have probably played a part in my 
exclusive love for him and perhaps it is foolish of me 
to expect those who are dear to me to feel towards Mozart 


as I do. But if I could do anything to change your 
opinion it would make me very happy. If ever you tell 
me that you have been touched by the adagio of the 
D minor quintet I shall rejoice." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, March igth (^ist), 1878. 

"... You need not be troubled about my fame abroad, 
my dear. If I am destined ever to acquire such fame, it 
will come of its own accord, although in all probability not 
while I am alive to see it. When you come to think that 
during my many trips abroad I have never called on in- 
fluential people, or sent them my compositions, that I 
have never pushed my reputation in other countries, we 
must be satisfied with any little success which my works 
may win. Do you know, all my pianoforte compositions 
are reprinted in Leipzig, and my songs also, with trans- 
lations of the words? My principal works (with the ex- 
ception of the operas) can be procured without difficulty 
in most of the large towns of France, Germany, and Eng- 
land. I myself bought my Third Symphony, arranged for 
four hands, and my Third Quartet, in Vienna. I have even 
come across some transcriptions hitherto unknown to me : 
the Barcarole for piano (Op. 370) arranged for violin and 
piano, the andante from the First Quartet for flute. 
Brandus, in Paris, keeps all my works in stock. There are 
many reasons why my symphonic works are so seldom 
heard of abroad. In the first place I am a Russian, and con- 
sequently looked upon with prejudice by every Western 
European. Secondly also because I am a Russian 
there is something exotic in my music which makes it in- 
accessible to foreigners. My overture to Romeo and 
Juliet has been played in every capital, but always with- 
out success. In Vienna and Paris it was hissed. A short 
time ago it met with no better reception in Dresden. In 
some other towns (London and Hamburg) it was more 
fortunate, but, all the same, my music has not been included 
in the standard repertory of Germany and other countries. 
Among musical circles abroad my name is not unknown. 
A few men have been specially interested in me, and 


taken some pains to include my works in their concert 
programmes ; but have generally met with insurmountable 
obstacles. For instance, Hans Richter, the Bayreuth con- 
ductor. In spite of all protests, he put my overture into 
the programme of one of the eight Philharmonic concerts 
which he conducts in Vienna. Disregarding its failure, he 
wished this season to do my Third Symphony ; but after one 
rehearsal the directors of the Philharmonic pronounced the 
work 'too Russian/ and it was unanimously rejected. There 
is no doubt that I could do a great deal to spread my works 
abroad if I went the round of all the European capitals, 
calling upon the 'big wigs/ and displaying my wares to 
them. But I would rather abandon every joy in life. 
Good Lord ! what one must undergo, what wounds to one's 
self-respect one must be prepared to receive before one can 
catch the attention of these gentlemen ! I will give you an 
instance. Supposing I wanted to become known in Vienna: 
Brahms is the musical lion of Vienna. Consequently, I 
should have to pay my respects to him. Brahms, the 
celebrity and I, the unknown composer. I may tell you, 
however, without false modesty, that I place myself a good 
deal higher than Brahms. What could I say to him ? If 
I were an honourable and sincere man I should have to say 
something of this kind : ' Herr Brahms, I regard you as an 
uninspired and pretentious composer, without any creative 
genius whatever. I do not rate you very highly, and look 
down upon you with disdain. But you could be of some 
use to me, so I have come to call upon you.' But if I were 
a dishonest man, then I should say exactly the opposite. 
I cannot adopt either course. 

" I need not go into further details. You alone with the 
exception of my brothers can fully enter into my feelings. 
My friends in Moscow cannot reconcile themselves to my 
having declined to act as delegate in Paris. They cannot 
believe that my association with such distinguished names 
as Liszt (who represents Hungary) and Verdi would not 
do much to promote my reputation. My dear friend, I have 
the reputation of being modest. But I will confess to you 
that my modesty is nothing less than a secret, but immense, 
amour propre. Among all living musicians there is not one 
before whom I would willingly lower my crest. At the 


same time, Nature, who endowed me with such pride, 
denied me the capacity for showing off my wares. Je ne 
sais pas me faire valoir. I do not know how to meet fame 
half-way on my own initiative, and prefer to wait until 
it comes to me unsought. I have long since resigned 
myself to the belief that I shall not live to see the general 
recognition of my talents. 

" You speak of Anton Rubinstein. How can I compare 
myself to him ? He is at present the greatest pianist in 
the world. He combines the personalities of a remarkable 
virtuoso and a gifted composer, so that the latter is borne 
as it were upon the shoulders of the former. In my life- 
time I shall never attain to a tenth part of what he has 
accomplished. Now we are on the subject of Rubinstein, 
let me tell you this : as my teacher, he knew my musical 
temperament better than anyone else, so that he might 
have done much to further my reputation abroad. Un- 
fortunately, this 'great light' has always treated me with a 
loftiness bordering on contempt. No one has inflicted 
such cruel wounds upon my self-esteem as Rubinstein. 
Externally, he has always been amiable and friendly. But 
beneath this friendly manner he showed plainly that he 
did not think me worth a brass farthing ! The one ' big 
wig' who has always been most kindly disposed towards 
me is Billow. Unluckily, he has been forced almost to 
abandon his musical career on account of ill-health, and 
cannot therefore do much more on my behalf. Thanks to 
him, I am well known in England and America. I have a 
number of Press notices relating to myself which appeared 
in these countries, and were sent to me by Biilow. 

" You need not worry yourself, my dear. If fame is 
destined for me, it will come with slow but sure steps. 
History convinces us that the success which is long delayed 
is often more lasting than when it comes easily and at 
a bound. Many a name which resounded through its own 
generation is now engulfed in the ocean of oblivion. An 
artist should not be troubled by the indifference of his 
contemporaries. He should go on working and say all 
he has been predestined to say. He should know that 
posterity alone can deliver a true and just verdict. I will 
tell you something more. Perhaps I accept my modest 


share with so little complaint because my faith in the 
judgment of the future is immovable. I have a foretaste 
during my lifetime of the fame which will be meted out 
to me when the history of Russian music comes to be 
written. For the present I am satisfied with what I have 
already acquired. I have no right to complain. I have 
met people on my way through life whose warm sympathy 
for my music more than compensates me for the indiffer- 
ence, misunderstanding, and ill-will of others." 


From S. I. Taneiev to Tchaikovsky. 

"March i&tA (30^), 1878. 

"... The jirst jnovemejit of your Fourth Symphony is 
disproportionately long in comparison with thlTnfHers;; it 
seems to me a symphonic poem, to which the three other 
movements are added "fortuitously. The fanfare _ for 

trumpets in the introduction, which is repeated in other 
places, the frequent change of tempo in the tributary 
themes all this makes me think that a programme is 
being treated here. Otherwise this movement pleases me. 

But the rhythm f * appears too often and becomes 
wearisome. Lid 

"The Andante is charming (the middle does not par- 
ticularly please me). The Scherzo is exquisite, and goes 
splendidly. The Trio I cannot bear: it sounds like a ballet 

"Nicholas Grigorievich (Rubinstein) likes the Finale best, 
but I do not altogether agree with him. The variations 
on a folksong do not strike me as very important or 

" In my opinion the Symphony has one defect, to 
which I shall never be reconciled : in every movement 
there are phrases which sound like _balleJt music : the 
middle section of the Andante, the Trio of the Scherzo, 
and a kind of march in the Finale. Hearing the Sym- 
phony, my inner eye sees involuntarily 'our prima 


ballerina,' which puts me out of humour and spoils my 
pleasure in the many beauties of the work. 

" This is my candid opinion. Perhaps I have expressed 
it somewhat freely, but do not be hurt. It is not surprising 
that the Symphony does not entirely please me. Had you 
not sent Eugene Oniegin at the same time, perhaps it 
might have satisfied me. It is your own fault. Why have 
you composed such an opera, which has no parallel in the 
world ? Oniegin has given me such pleasure that I cannot 
find words to express it. A splendid opera ! And yet 
you say you want to give up composing. You have never 
done so well. Rejoice that you have attained such per- 
fection, and profit by it." 

Tchaikovsky to Taneiev. 
"CLARENS, March 21 th (April Wi), 1878. 
" DEAR SERGE, I have read your letter with the 
greatest pleasure and interest. . . . You need not be afraid 
that your criticism of my Fourth Symphony is too severe. 
You have simply given me your frank opinion, for which I 
am grateful. I want these kind of opinions, not choruses 
of praise. At the same time many things in your letter 
astonished me. I have no idea what you consider * ballet 
music/ or why you should object to it. Do you regard 
every melody in a lively dance-rhythm as ' ballet music ' ? 
In that case how can you reconcile yourself to the majority 
of Beethoven's symphonies, for in them you will find 
similar melodies on every page ? Or do you mean to say 
that the Trio of my Scherzo is in the style of Minkus, 
Gerber, or Pugni ? It does not, to my mind, deserve such 
criticism. I never can understand why 'ballet music' 
should be used as a contemptuous epiphet. The music of 
a ballet is not invariably bad, there are good works of this 
class Delibes' Sylvia, for instance. And when the music 
is good, what difference does it make whether the Sobiesi- 
chanskaya x dances to it or not ? I can only say that 
certain portions of my Symphony do not please you 
because they recall the ballet ', not because they are intrin- 
sically bad. You may be right, but I do not see why 

1 Prima ballerina of the Moscow Opera. 


dance tunes should not be employed episodically in a 
symphony, even with the avowed intention of giving 
a touch of coarse, everyday humour. Again I appeal to 
Beethoven, who frequently had recourse to similar effects. 
I must add that I have racked my brains in vain to recall 
in what part of the Allegro you can possibly have dis- 
covered ' ballet music.' It remains an enigma. With all 
that you say as to my Symphony having a programme, 
I am quite in agreement. But I do not see why this 
should be a mistake. I am far more afraid of the contrary ; 
I do not wish any symphonic work to emanate from me 
which has nothing to express, and consists merely of 
harmonies and a purposeless design of rhythms and modu- 
lations. Of course, my Symphony is programme music, but 
it would be impossible to give the programme in words; it 
would appear ludicrous and only raise a smile. Ought not 
this to be the case with a symphony which is the most 
lyrical of all musical forms ? Ought it not to express all 
those things for which words cannot be found, which never- 
theless arise in the heart and clamour for expression? 
Besides, I must tell you that in my simplicity I imagined 
the plan of my Symphony to be so obvious that everyone 
would understand its meaning, or at least its leading ideas, 
without any definite programme. Pray do not imagine I 
want to swagger before you with profound emotions and 
lofty ideas. Throughout the work I have made no effort to 
express any new thought. In reality my work is a reflec- 
tion of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ; I have not copied 
his musical contents, only borrowed the central idea. 
What kind of a programme has this Fifth Symphony, do 
you think ? Not only has it a programme, but it is so 
clear that there cannot be the smallest difference of 
opinion as to what it means. Much the same lies at the 
root of my Symphony, and if you have failed to grasp 
it, it simply proves that I am no Beethoven on which 
point I have no doubt whatever. Let me add that there is 
not a single bar in this Fourth Symphony of mine which 
I have not truly felt, and which is not an echo of my most 
intimate spiritual life. The only exception occurs perhaps 
in the middle section of the first movement, in which there 
are some forced passages, some things which are laboured 


and artificial. I know you will laugh as you read these 
lines. You are a sceptic and a mocking-bird. In spite of 
your great love of music you do not seem to believe that a 
man can compose from his inner impulses. Wait awhile, 
you too will join the ranks ! Some day, perhaps very soon, 
you will compose, not because others ask you to do so, but 
because it is your own desire. Only then will the seed 
which can bring forth a splendid harvest fall upon the rich 
soil of your gifted nature. I speak the truth, if somewhat 
grandiloquently. Meanwhile your fields are waiting for the 
sower. I will write more about this in my next. There 
were beautiful details in your score, it only lacks . . . but 
I will not forestall matters. In my next letter I will talk 
exclusively of yourself. 

"There have been great changes in my life since I wrote 
that I had lost all hope of composing any more. The 
devil of authorship has awoke in me again in the most 
unexpected way. 

" Please, dear Serge, do not see any shadow of annoyance 
in my defence of the Symphony ; of course I should like 
you to be pleased with everything I write, but I am quite 
satisfied with the interest you always show me. You can- 
not think how delighted I am with your approval of 
Oniegin. I value your opinion very highly, and the more 
frankly you express it, the more I feel its worth. And so 
I cordially thank you, and beg you not to be afraid of over- 
severity. I want just those stinging criticisms from you. 
So long as you give me the truth, what does it matter 
whether it is favourable or not ? " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" April ist (i$th\ 1878. 

"... It is very early. I slept badly, and after an 
unsuccessful attempt to doze off again, I got up and came 
to sit near the window, where I am now writing to you. 
What a wonderful morning ! The sky is absolutely clear. 
A few little harmless clouds are floating over the mountains 
on either side the lake. From the garden comes the 
twitter of innumerable birds. The Dent du Midi is clear 
of mist, and glitters in the sunlight which catches its 


snow-clad peaks. The lake is smooth as a mirror. How 
beautiful it all is ! Does it not seem hard that the fine 
weather should have come just as I am on the point of 
departure ? 

" As regards Mozart, let me add these words. You say 
my worship for him is quite contrary to my musical nature. 
But perhaps it is just because being a child of my day 
I feel broken and spiritually out of joint, that I find con- 
solation and rest in the music of Mozart, wherein he gives 
expression to that joy of life which was part of his sane 
and wholesome temperament, not yet undermined by re- 
flection. It seems to me that an artist's creative power is 
something quite apart from his sympathy with this or that 
great master. For instance, a man may admire Beethoven, 
and yet by temperament be more akin to Mendelssohn. 
Could there be a more glaring instance of inconsistency, 
for instance, than Berlioz the composer and champion of 
ultra-romanticism in music, and Berlioz the critic and 
adorer of Gluck? Perhaps this is just an example of the 
attraction which makes extremes meet, and causes a big, 
strong man to fall in love with a tiny, delicate woman, and 
vice versa. Do you know that Chopin did not care for 
Beethoven, and could hardly bear to hear some of his 
works? I was told this by a man who knew him per- 
sonally. At any rate, I will conclude by saying that 
dissimilarity of temperament between two artists is no 
hindrance to their mutual sympathy." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"VIENNA, April Zth (20^), 1878. 

"... My next letter will reach you from Russia. 

" I was surprised to find the spring so much further 
advanced in Vienna than at Clarens. The trees there had 
scarcely begun to show green, while here there is a look of 
summer already. Vienna is so bright and sunny to-day, 
it would certainly have made a pleasant impression upon 
me had I not read the morning papers, which are full 
of poisonous, malicious, and abominable slanders about 
Russia. The Neue Freie Presse takes pains to inform 
its readers that the action of the girl who fired at Trepov 


has created a revolution in Russia, that the Emperor is in 
peril, and must flee from the country, etc., etc. 

"Now, on the point of taking leave of foreign lands and 
turning my face homewards, a sound, sane man, full of 
renewed strength and energy let me thank you once 
again, my dear and invaluable friend, for all I owe you, 
which I can never, never forget." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, April \2th (24^). 

" At last we have arrived. The journey was long and 
tedious and my expectations were disappointed. I had 
always thought my home-coming would fill me with such 
sweet and profound sentiments. Nothing of the kind ! A 
tipsy policeman who would hardly let us pass because he 
could not grasp that the number of passengers on my pass- 
port corresponded to the figure on his own ; an officer of 
customs who demanded duty to the amount of fourteen 
gold roubles upon a dress I had bought for my sister for 
seventy francs ; a conversation with a very importunate 
gentleman, bent on convincing me that the policy of Eng- 
land was the most humane in the world; the crowd of 
dirty Jews with their accompanying odours ; the numbers 
of young conscripts who travelled in our train, and the 
farewell scenes with their wives and mothers at every 
station all these things spoilt my pleasure in returning to 
my beloved native land. At Shmerinka we had to wait a 
few hours ; unfortunately, as it was night, I could not see 
Brailov, 1 although I knew in which direction to look for 
it. ... As my sister's house is rather crowded, she has 
taken a nice, quiet room near at hand for me. I have also 
a garden, well stocked with flowers, which will soon begin 
to exhale their lovely perfumes. My little home is very 
cosy and comfortable. There is even a piano in the tiny 
parlour next to my bedroom. I shall be able to work un- 

"... How glad I am, dear Nadejda Filaretovna, that 
you take such a just and sensible view of the agitating 
events which have been taking place in Petersburg and 

1 The country property of Nadejda von Meek. 


Moscow! I did not expect you to think differently, 
although I feared lest your pity for Sassoulich personally 
in any case a very diluted and involuntary sympathy 
might possibly have influenced your opinion. It is one 
thing, however, to feel sorry for her, and to detest the arro- 
gant and brutal conduct of the arbitrary Prefect of Peters- 
burg, and quite another thing to approve of that display of 
unpatriotic sentiment by which her acquittal has been 
signalised, and with the Moscow riots. It seems to me 
that both these events are most disquieting at the present 
moment, and I am exceedingly glad that the Russian 
lower classes have shown the crazy leaders of our younger 
generation how little their orders are in accord with sound 
sense and the spirit of the nation. I am glad to feel once 
again that, in spite of a few differences as to details, we 
are in agreement on most important matters." 

A few days after receiving this letter, N. F. von Meek 
invited Tchaikovsky to spend some weeks in the restful 
solitude of her estate at Brailov, " Of course she herself 
will not be there," he wrote to his brother on April 2/th 
(May Qth). " I am delighted to accept her invitation." 
Meanwhile his days at Kamenka were fully occupied, as 
may be seen from the following extract from a letter to 
Nadejda von Meek, dated April 3Oth, 1878 : 

" I am working very hard. The sonata is already 
finished, as are also twelve pieces of moderate difficulty 
for pianoforte. Of course all this is only sketched out. 
To-morrow I shall begin a collection of miniature pieces 
for children. I thought long ago it would not be a bad 
thing to do all in my power to enrich the children's 
musical literature, which is rather scanty. I want to write 
a whole series of perfectly easy pieces, and to find titles 
for them which would interest children, as Schumann has 
done. I have planned songs and violin pieces for later on, 
and then, if the favourable mood lasts long enough, I want 
to do something in the way of Church music. A vast and 
almost untrodden field of activity lies open to composers 
here. I appreciate certain merits in Bortniansky, Berez- 
ovsky, and others ; but how little their music is in keeping 


with the Byzantine architecture, the ikons, and the whole 
spirit of the Orthodox liturgy ! Perhaps you are aware 
that the Imperial Chapels have the monopoly of Church 
music, and that it is forbidden to print, or to sing in 
church, any sacred compositions which are not included in 
the published collections of these Chapels. Moreover, they 
guard this monopoly very jealously, and will not permit 
new settings of any portions of the liturgy under any 
circumstances whatever. My publisher, Jurgenson, has 
discovered a way of evading this curious prohibition, and if 
I write anything of this kind, he will publish it abroad. It 
is not improbable that I shall decide to set the entire 
liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I shall arrange all this 
by July. I intend to rest absolutely during the whole of 
that month, and to start upon some important work in 
August. I should like to write an opera. Turning over 
books in my sister's library, I came upon Joukovsky's 
Undine, and re-read the tale which I loved as a child. In 
1869 I wrote an opera on this subject, and submitted it to 
the Opera Direction. It was rejected. Although at the 
time I thought this very unjust, yet afterwards I became 
disillusioned with my own work, and was very glad it 
had not had the chance of being damned. Now I am 
again attracted to the subject." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"KIEV, May \\th (26^), 1878. 

" My telegram to-day, sent from Kiev, must have aston- 
ished you, dear friend. I left quite suddenly, as my 
sister had to come here sooner than she expected. ... I 
could not wait at Kamenka for your letter containing direc- 
tions for my journey to Brailov ; but, in any case, I shall 
leave here on Tuesday, and arrive at Shmerinka at 7 a.m. 
on Wednesday." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" BRAILOV, May \ith (29^), 1878. 

" Seated in the carriage, after you left me, of course I 
dissolved in tears. The recollection of our meeting in 


Milan came back to me. How jolly it was ! The journey 
to Genoa and afterwards ! How beautiful it all seemed to 
me and it was nearly six months ago ! Here followed a 
fresh burst of tears. 

" One of my fellow-travellers, who seemed to know this 
neighbourhood, told us that Brailov belonged to the banker 
Meek, had cost three million roubles, and brought the 
owner a yearly income of 700,000 roubles, and other non- 
sense. I was very much excited on the journey. In the 
waiting-room at Shmerinka 1 was greeted by the same 
waiter you remember him who served our supper ; I 
told him to inquire whether any horses had been sent from 
Brailov. Two minutes later Marcel appeared. He is not 
a Frenchman, but a native. He was very attentive and 
amiable. His coat and hat were infinitely superior to mine, 
so that I felt quite embarrassed as I took my seat in the 
luxuriously appointed carriage, while he mounted the box 
beside the coachman. The house is really a palace. At 
Marcel's invitation I entered the dining-room, where a 
huge silver samovar steamed on the table, together with 
a coffee-pot upon a spirit-lamp, cups of rare china, eggs, 
butter, etc. I observed that Marcel had received his 
instructions ; he did not attempt to converse, nor to stand 
behind my chair, but just served what was necessary and 
went away. He inquired how I desired to arrange my 
day. I ordered my midday meal at one o'clock, tea at 
nine, and a cold supper. After coffee I explored the house, 
which contains a series of separate suites of rooms. A 
large wing, built in stone for the accommodation of guests, 
is arranged like a kind of hotel ; a long corridor with 
rooms on each side, which are always kept exactly as 
though they were inhabited. The first floor, which I 
occupy, is furnished with the utmost comfort. There are 
many bookcases containing very interesting illustrated 
publications. In the music-room, a grand piano, a very 
fine harmonium, and plenty of music. In Nadejda Filaret- 
ovna's study there are a few pictures. At one o'clock 
I had dinner, a very exquisite, but rather slight, repast. 
The Zakouska (hors dceuvre) excellent, the wine ditto. 
After dinner I looked through the music and strolled in 
the garden. At four o'clock I ordered the carriage and 


took a drive. The neighbourhood of Brailov is not very 
pretty. There is no view from the windows. The garden 
is extensive and well stocked, especially with lilacs and 
roses, but it is not picturesque, nor sufficiently shady. On 
the whole I like the house best. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May i%th (30^), 1878. 

" How lovely, how free, it is in your country home! The 
sun has set, and over the wide fields in front of the main 
entrance the heat is already giving way to the cool evening 
breeze. The lilacs scent the air, and the cockchafers break 
the stillness with their bass note. The nightingale is sing- 
ing in the distance. How glorious it is ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"BRAILOV, May 2isf (June 2nd), 1878. 

" My life at Brailov flows tranquilly on. In the early 
morning after coffee I stroll in the garden, and then slip out 
through the little wooden door in the wall near the stable, 
and, jumping the ditch, find myself in the old, forsaken 
garden of the monastery, where the monks used to wander 
of old, but which is now tenanted by all kinds of birds. 
Not infrequently the oriole and the nightingale are seen 
there. This garden is apparently deserted, for the paths 
are so overgrown and the greenery so fresh that one could 
fancy oneself in the heart of the forest. First I wander 
through it, then sit down in a shady place for an hour or 
so. Such moments of solitude amid the flowers and green 
branches are incomparable ; then I can watch every form 
of organic life which manifests itself silently, without a 
sound, yet speaks more forcibly of the illimitable and the 
eternal than the rumbling of bridges and all the turmoil of 
the streets. In one of your letters you say I shall not find 
a Gorge de Chaudiere at Brailov. I do not want it ! Such 
places satisfy one's curiosity rather than one's heart and 
imagination ; one sees more English tourists than birds 
and flowers ; they bring more fatigue than enjoyment. 

" After my walk I work at the violin pieces, one of which 


is quite finished. If I am not mistaken, it will please you, 
although the accompaniment is rather difficult in places, 
and this, I fear, will make you angry. 

"Punctually at I p.m. Marcel summons me to the 
dining-room, where, in - the middle of the elegantly 
appointed table, two big bouquets are arranged, which 
give me fresh cause for delight. Then follows a real 
Balthazar's feast. Each time I feel a little ashamed to 
sit down alone to such a liberal and sumptuous table. 

"After dinner I walk in the garden, read, or write letters 
until 4.30, when I go for a drive. 

"Yesterday the rain prevented me from taking my 
usual constitutional in the meadows facing the house. At 
sunset I like a more open space, and these meadows 
enclosed by trees, lilac bushes, and the stream, offer a 
charming evening walk. 

" Then I generally spend half an hour at your splendid 
harmonium. I like to observe all its curious acoustic 
properties, which are called aliquot tones. No doubt you 
have observed that when you play chords on the organ, 
besides the sound which comes from the notes struck, 
another sound is heard in the bass, which sometimes 
harmonises with the chord and sometimes results in a 
harsh discord. Occasionally the most curious combinations 
are produced. This is what I discovered yesterday. 

I i 4. 4 I .4 ! i 

Try this acoustic experiment by drawing out register 
No. i, that is to say Flute and Cor Anglais. D and F sharp, 
A and C are perfectly 'in tune, but the E sounds rather 


" At 9 p.m. the second Balthazar's feast takes place. 
Then I play and make myself acquainted with your 
musical library. Yesterday I played through a serenade 
for strings by Volkmann with great pleasure. A sympa- 
thetic composer. He has many simple and natural 

" Do you know that Volkmann is quite an old man and 
lives in the greatest poverty at Pesth ? Once the musicians 
in Moscow got up a small fund for him, amounting to 300 
roubles, in gratitude for which he dedicated his Second 
Symphony to the Moscow Musical Society. I never could 
discover why he was so poor. 

"At II p.m. I go to my room and undress. Marcel, the 
good-natured soldier-porter, and Alexis go to bed. I am 
left alone to read, dream, or recall the past ; to think of 
those near and dear to me ; to open the window and gaze 
out on the stars ; to listen to the sounds of night ; and 
finally to go to bed. 

" A wonderful life ! Like a vision, a dream ! Kind and 
beloved Nadejda Filaretovna, how grateful I am to you 
for everything! Sometimes my sense of gratitude is so 
keen I feel I must proclaim it aloud." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" BRAILOV, May *$rd (June 4^), 1878. 

" As I walked through the woods yesterday I found a 
quantity of mushrooms. Mushrooming is my greatest 
delight in summer. The moment in which one first sees a 
plump, white mushroom is simply fascinating ! Passionate 
card-lovers may experience the same feeling when they 
see the ace of trumps in their hand. All night long I 
dreamed of large, fat, pink mushrooms. When I awoke 
I reflected that these muskroomy dreams were very child- 
ish. And, in truth, one would become a child again if 
one lived long all alone with Nature. One would become 
far more receptive to the simple, artless joys which she 
offers us. 

" Do you know what I am preoccupied with at present ? 
When I was sitting alone one evening at Kiev, while my 
sister and Modeste had gone to the theatre to see Rossi in 


Romeo and Juliet, I read the play through once more. 
Immediately I was possessed with the idea of composing 
an opera on the subject. The existing operas of Bellini 
and Gounod do not frighten me. In both of them Shake- 
speare is mutilated and distorted until he is hardly recog- 
nisable. Do you not think that this great work of the 
arch-genius is well adapted to inspire a musician ? I have 
already talked it over with Modeste ; but he shrank from 
the magnitude of the task. Nothing venture, nothing 
have. I shall think over the plan of this opera and throw 
all my energies into the work for which I am reserving 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"BRAILOV, May 2$th (June 6th\ 1878. 

" Modi, ever since I re-read Romeo and Juliet^ Undine^ 
Berthalde> Gulbrand> and the rest seem to me a pack of 
childish nonsense. Of course, I shall compose an opera on 
Romeo and Juliet. All your objections will vanish before 
the vast enthusiasm which possesses me. It shall be my 
finest work. It seems absurd that I have only just found 
out that fate has to some extent ordained me for this task. 
Nothing could be better suited to my musical tempera- 
ment. No kings, no marches in a word, none of the 
usual accessories of Grand Opera. Nothing but love, love, 
love. And then how delightful are the minor characters : 
Friar Lawrence, Tybalt, Mercutio! You need not be 
afraid of monotony. The first love duet will be very 
different from the second. In the first, brightness and 
serenity ; in the second, a tragic element. From children, 
happily and carelessly in love, Romeo and Juliet have 
become passionate and suffering beings, placed in a 
tragic and inextricable dilemma. How I long to get to 
work on it ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"BRAILOV, May 27^ (June 8M), 1878. 
" Yesterday I played the whole of Eugene Oniegin, 
from beginning to end. The author was the sole listener. 
I am half ashamed of what I am going to confide to you in 


secret : the listener was moved to tears, and paid the com- 
poser a thousand compliments. If only the audiences of 
the future will feel towards this music as the composer 
himself does!" 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May ztfh (June iQth\ 1878. 

" I am spending my last days here. I need hardly tell 
you why I cannot accept your hospitality any longer, 
although I might remain until June loth (22nd). I have 
spent many unforgettable days here ; I have experienced 
the purest and most tranquil enjoyment. I have drunk in 
the beauties and sympathetic surroundings of Brailov, so 
that my visit will remain one of the most beautiful memo- 
ries of my life. I thank you. Nevertheless it is time I 
went away." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May $otk (June nM), 1878. 

" I have given my pieces (which are dedicated to Brailov) 
to Marcel, so that he may deliver them to you. The first 
is the best, I think, but also the most difficult ; it is called 
Meditation. The second is a very quick Scherzo, and the 
third a ' Chant sans Paroles? It was very hard to part with 
them to Marcel. Just recently I had started copying 
them ! Then the lilacs were still in full bloom, the grass 
uncut, and the roses had hardly begun to bud ! " 


To N. F. Meek. 
"VILLAGE OF Nizi,fune 6th (i8M) 1878. 

" Forgive me, my friend, for not having written to you 
from Petersburg. In the first place, I was afraid my letter 
might not reach you in time, and secondly, you cannot 
imagine what a hell my three days' sojourn in Moscow 
proved to be. They seemed more like three centuries. I 
experienced the same joy when I found myself in the train 


once more that I might have felt on being released from a 
narrow prison cell. I have come here in answer to the 
invitation of a hospitable old friend, Kondratiev, whom 
I formerly used to visit almost every summer. Here I 
composed Vakoula and many other works." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, June 2^th (July 6th\ 1878. 

" You want to know my methods of composing ? Do 
you know, dear friend, that it is very difficult to give a 
satisfactory answer to your question, because the circum- 
stances under which a new work comes into the world 
vary considerably in each case. 

" First, I must divide my works into two categories, for 
this is important in trying to explain my methods. 

" (i) Works which I compose on my own initiative that 
is to say, from an invincible inward impulse. 

"(2) Works which are inspired by external circumstances : 
the wish of a friend, or a publisher, and commissioned 

" Here I should add experience has taught me that the 
intrinsic value of a work has nothing to do with its place 
in one or the other of these categories. It frequently 
happens that a composition which owes its existence to 
external influences proves very successful ; while one that 
proceeds entirely from my own initiative may, for various 
indirect reasons, turn out far less well. These indirect 
circumstances, upon which depends the mood in which a 
work is written, are of the very greatest importance. 
During the actual time of creative activity complete quiet 
is absolutely necessary to the artist. In this sense every 
work of art, even a musical composition, is objective. 
Those who imagine that a creative artist can through the 
medium of his art express his feelings at the moment 
when he is moved, make the greatest mistake. Emotions 
sad or joyful can only be expressed retrospectively, so 
to speak. Without any special reason for rejoicing, I may 
be moved by the most cheerful creative mood, and, vice 
versd, a work composed under the happiest surroundings 
may be touched with dark and gloomy colours. 


" In a word, an artist lives a double life : an everyday 
human life, and an artistic life, and the two do not always 
go hand in hand. 

"In any case, it is absolutely necessary for a composer 
to shake off all the cares of daily existence, at least for a 
time, and give himself up entirely to his art-life. 

" Works belonging to the first category do not require the 
least effort of will. It is only necessary to obey our in- 
ward promptings, and if our material life does not crush 
our artistic life under its weight of depressing circum- 
stances, the work progresses with inconceivable rapidity. 
Everything else is forgotten, the soul throbs with an 
incomprehensible and indescribable excitement, so that, 
almost before we can follow this swift flight of inspiration, 
time passes literally unreckoned and unobserved. 

" There is something somnambulistic about this condi- 
tion. On ne sentend pas vivre. It is impossible to 
describe such moments. Everything that flows from one's 
pen, or merely passes through one's brain (for such 
moments often come at a time when writing is an impossi- 
bility) under these circumstances is invariably good, and 
if no external obstacle comes to hinder the creative 
glow, the result will be an artist's best and most perfect 
work. Unfortunately such external hindrances are in- 
evitable. A duty has to be performed, dinner is an- 
nounced, a letter arrives, and so on. This is the reason 
why there exist so few compositions which are of equal 
quality throughout. Hence the joins, patches ', inequalities 
and discrepancies. 

" For the works in my second category it is necessary to 
get into the mood. To do so we are often obliged to fight 
with indolence and disinclination. Besides this, there are 
many other fortuitous circumstances. Sometimes the vic- 
tory is easily gained. At other times inspiration eludes us, 
and cannot be recaptured. I consider it, however, the duty 
of an artist not to be conquered by circumstances. He 
must not wait. Inspiration is a guest who does not care to 
visit those who are indolent. The reproaches heaped upon 
the Russian nation because of its deficiency in original 
works of art are not without foundation, for the Russians 
are lazy. A Russian is always glad to procrastinate : he is 


gifted by nature, but at the same time nature has withheld 
from him the power of will. A man must learn to conquer 
himself, lest he should degenerate into dilettantism, from 
which even so colossal a talent as Glinka's was not free. 
This man, endowed with an extraordinary and special 
creative talent, achieved astonishingly little, although he 
attained a fairly ripe age. Read his Memoirs. You will 
see that he worked like a dilettante on and off, when he 
was in the mood. However proud we may be of Glinka, 
we must acknowledge that he did not entirely fulfil his 
task, if we take into consideration the magnitude of his 
gifts. Both his operas, in spite of their astonishing and 
original beauty, suffer from glaring inequalities of style. 
Side by side with touches of genius and passages of 
imperishable beauty we find childish and weak numbers. 
What might not Glinka have accomplished had he lived 
amid different surroundings, had he worked like an artist 
who, fully alive to his power and his duty, develops his 
gifts to the ultimate limit of perfection, rather than as an 
amateur who makes music his pastime ! 

" I have explained that I compose either from an inward 
impulse, winged by a lofty and undefinable inspiration, or 
I simply work, invoking all my powers, which sometimes 
answer and sometimes remain deaf to my invocation. In 
the latter case the work created will always remain the 
mere product of labour, without any glow of genuine 
musical feeling. 

" I hope you will not think I am boasting, if I say that 
my appeal to inspiration is very rarely in vain. In other 
words, that power which I have already described as a 
capricious guest has long since become fast friends with 
me, so that we are inseparable, and it only deserts me 
when my material existence is beset by untoward circum- 
stances and its presence is of no avail. Under normal 
conditions I may say there is no hour of the day in which 
I cannot compose. Sometimes I observe with curiosity 
that uninterrupted activity, which independent of the sub- 
ject of any conversation I may be carrying on continues 
its course in that department of my brain which is devoted 
to music. Sometimes it takes a preparatory form that is, 
the consideration of all details that concern the elabora- 


tion of some projected work ; another time it may be an 
entirely new and independent musical idea, and I make an 
effort to hold it fast in my memory. Whence does it 
come ? It is an inscrutable mystery. 

" Now I will try to describe my actual procedure in 
composition. But not until after dinner. Au revoir. If 
you only knew how difficult, yet at the same time how 
pleasant it is to talk to you about all this ! 

" Two o'clock. 

" I usually write my sketches on the first piece of paper 
to hand. I jot them down in the most abbreviated form. 
A melody never stands alone, but invariably with the 
harmonies which belong to it. These two elements of 
music, together with the rhythm, must never be separated ; 
every melodic idea brings its own inevitable harmony and 
its suitable rhythm. If the harmony is very intricate, I set 
down in the sketch a few details as to the working out of 
the parts ; when the harmony is quite simple, 1 only put in 
the bass, or a figured bass, and sometimes not even this. 
If the sketch is intended for an orchestral work, the ideas 
appear ready-coloured by some special instrumental com- 
bination. The original plan of instrumentation often 
undergoes some modifications. 

" The text must never be written after the music, for if 
music is written to given words only, these words invoke 
a suitable musical expression. It is quite possible to fit 
words to a short melody, but in treating a serious work 
such adaptation is not permissible. It is equally im- 
possible to compose a symphonic work and afterwards to 
attach to it a programme, since every episode of the 
chosen programme should evoke its corresponding musical 
presentment. This stage of composition the sketch is 
remarkably pleasant and interesting. It brings an in- 
describable delight, accompanied, however, by a kind of 
unrest and nervous agitation. Sleep is disturbed and 
meals forgotten. Nevertheless, the development of the 
project proceeds tranquilly. The instrumentation of a 
work which is completely thought out and matured is 
a most enjoyable task. 

" The same does not apply to the bare sketch of a work 


for pianoforte or voice, or little pieces in general, which are 
sometimes very tiresome. Just now I am occupied with 
this kind of work. You ask : do I confine myself to es- 
tablished forms ? Yes, and no. Some compositions imply 
the use of traditional forms ; but only as regards their 
general features the sequence of the various movements. 
The details permit of considerable freedom of treatment, 
if the development of the ideas require it. For example, 
the first movement of our Symphony is written in a very 
informal style. The second subject, which ought, properly 
speaking, to be in the major, is in a somewhat remote 
minor key. In the recapitulation of the principal part 
the second subject is entirely left out, etc. In the finale, 
too, there are many deviations from traditional form. In 
vocal music, in which everything depends on the text, and 
in fantasias (like The Tempest and Francesco) the form is 
quite free. You ask me about melodies built upon the 
notes of the harmony. I can assure you, and prove it by 
many examples, that it is quite possible, by means of 
rhythm and the transposition of these notes, to evolve 
millions of new and beautiful melodic combinations. 
But this only applies to homophonic music. With poly- 
phonic music such a method of building up a melody 
would interfere with the independence of the parts. In 
the music of Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann, 
and especially Wagner, we frequently find melodies which 
consist of the notes of the common chord ; a gifted 
musician will always be able to invent a new and interest- 
ing fanfare. Do you remember the beautiful Sword- 
motive in the Nibelungen ? 



" I am very fond of a melody by Verdi (a very gifted 


" How glorious and how fresh the chief theme of the 
first movement of Rubinstein's Ocean symphony : 

" If I racked my brains a little, I should find countless 
examples to support my assertion. Talent is the sole 
secret. It knows no limitations : it creates the most 
beautiful music out of nothing. Could there be anything 
more trivial than the following melody ? 

Beethoven, Seventh Symphony : 

or Glinka, Jota aragonesa : 

" And yet what splendid musical structures Beethoven 
and Glinka have raised on these themes ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, June 2$th (July ;//&), 1878. 

" Yesterday, when I wrote to you about my methods of 
composing, I did not sufficiently enter into that phase of 
work which relates to the working out of the sketch. This 
phase is of primary importance. What has been set down 


in a moment of ardour must now be critically examined, 
improved, extended, or condensed, as the form requires. 
Sometimes one must do oneself violence, must sternly and 
pitilessly take part against oneself, before one can merci- 
lessly erase things thought out with love and enthusiasm. 
I cannot complain of poverty of imagination, or lack of 
inventive power ; but, on the other hand, I have always 
suffered from my want of skill in the management of 
form. Only after strenuous labour have I at last suc- 
ceeded in making the form of my compositions correspond, 
more or less, with their contents. Formerly I was care- 
less and did not give sufficient attention to the critical 
overhauling of my sketches. Consequently my seams 
showed, and there was no organic union between my 
individual episodes. This was a very serious defect, 
and I only improved gradually as time went on ; but the 
form of my works will never be exemplary, because, 
although I can modify, I cannot radically alter the 
essential qualities of my musical temperament. But I am 
far from believing that my gifts have yet reached their 
ultimate development. I can affirm with joy that I make 
continual progress on the way of self-development, and 
am passionately desirous of attaining the highest degree 
of perfection of which my talents are capable. Therefore I 
expressed myself badly when I told you yesterday that 
I transcribed my works direct from the first sketches. 
The process is something more than copying ; it is actu- 
ally a critical examination, leading to corrections, occa- 
sional additions, and frequent curtailments. 

" In your letter you express a wish to see my sketches. 
Will you accept the original sketch for my opera Eugene 
Oniegin ? As the pianoforte score will be published in the 
autumn, it might interest you to compare the autograph 
sketches with the completed work. If so, I will send you 
the manuscript as soon as I return to Moscow. I suggest 
Oniegin because none of my works has been written with 
such fluency ; therefore the manuscript is easy to read, as 
it contains few corrections." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

" VERBOVKA,/^ tfh (i6M), 1878. 

". . . My work progresses slowly. The sonata is 
finished, however, and to-day I have begun to write out 
some songs, composed partly abroad and partly at 
Kamenka, in April. I have heard from Jurgenson that 
four great Russian concerts, conducted by N. Rubinstein, 
are to take place in Paris. My Pianoforte Concerto, The 
Tempest y Francesco,, and two movements from our Sym- 
phony are to be given. I will let you have further 
particulars, in case you care to time your visit to Paris so 
that it coincides with the concerts. Among those engaged 
to take part in them is Lavrovsky." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"Jufy z$th (August 6th), 1878. 

" I write to you, dear friend, with a light heart, happy 
in the consciousness of having finished a work (the Liturgy). 
. . . People who go to work in feverish haste (like myself) 
are really the laziest folk. They get through their work 
as fast as possible in order to enjoy idleness. Now I can 
indulge to the full my secret delight in doing nothing." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 
" VERBOVKA, July 2^th (August loM), 1878. 

<( DEAR FRIEND, My manuscripts will have been taken 
to you. You will find plenty of material for your en- 
gravers. I send you five pieces, and besides these I shall 
shortly despatch three pieces for violin. 

" I should like to receive the following fees : x 

s. d. 
" i. Sonata (50 roubles) . . .500 

2. Twelve pieces (at 25 roubles each) . 30 o o 

3. The Children's Album (240 roubles) 24 o o 

4. Six songs (at 25 roubles) . .1500 

5. Violin pieces (at 25 roubles each) . 7 10 o 

6. The Liturgy . . . ' . 10 o o 

91 10 o 

1 The rouble is here and elsewhere roughly calculated at 2s. 


" In a round sum 900 roubles ; but having regard to the 
fact that I have written such a quantity at once, I will let 
you have the lot for 800 roubles." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"August tfh (i6th\ 1878. 

" With my usual habit of worrying and upsetting myself 
about things, I am now troubled because I did not get to 
Brailov in time immediately after your departure. I am 
afraid this may have caused some inconvenience to your 
servants. But what could I do? I wish someone could 
explain to me the origin of that curious exhaustion which 
comes upon me almost every evening, about which I have 
already written to you. I cannot say it is altogether dis- 
agreeable, because it usually ends in a heavy, almost 
lethargic sleep, and such repose is bliss. Nevertheless the 
attacks are tiresome and unpleasant, because of the vague 
anxiety, the undefinable yearning, which take an incon- 
ceivably strong hold upon my spirit, and end in a positive 
longing for Nirvana la sbif-du neant. Probably the cause 
of this psychological phenomenon is of quite a prosaic 
nature ; I think it is not so much a mental ailment as a 
result of bad digestion, a sequel of my catarrh of the 
stomach. Unluckily we cannot get over the fact that the 
material influences the spiritual ! Too often, alas ! a pickled 
gherkin too much has played the most important part 
in the highest functions of the human intellect. Forgive 
me, dear friend, for boring you with these continual com- 
plaints about my health, which are out of place, for in 
reality I am a perfectly sound man, and the little ailments 
about which I grumble are not serious. I only want repose, 
and I shall certainly find it in Brailov. Good Lord ! how 
I long for the dear house and the dear neighbourhood ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, August itfh (26^), 1878. 

" I have brought a great many interesting books with 
me, among them Histoire de ma vie^ by George Sand. 
The book is rather carelessly written without logical 


sequence, like a clever gossip relating his own reminiscences, 
but with many digressions. But it has much sincerity, a 
complete absence of pose, and remarkably clever portraiture 
of the people among whom she moved in her youth. Your 
library, too, contains many books I cannot put down when 
I have once opened them. Among these is a superb edition 
of de Musset, one of my favourite authors. To-day, look- 
ing through this volume, I became so absorbed in Andrea 
del Sarto that seated upon the floor I was compelled to 
read the whole work to the end. I am passionately fond 
of all de Musset's dramatic works. How often have I 
thought of using one of his comedies or plays as an opera 
libretto ! Unfortunately they are all too French, and not 
to be thought of in a translation ; for instance, Le Chande- 
lier, or On ne badine pas avec amour. Some, less local in 
character, are lacking in dramatic movement, such as 
Lorenzaccio, or Andrea del Sarto. Others, again, contain 
too much philosophising, like Les caprices de Marianne. 

" I cannot understand why French composers have 
hitherto neglected this rich source of inspiration." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, August ibth (28^), 1878. 

"I return once more to Alfred de Musset. You must 
read his Proverbes Dramatiques from end to end. I re- 
commend you especially Les caprices de Marianne^ On ne 
badine pas avec I 'amour ', and Le Chandelier. Dp not these 
things cry aloud for music ? What thought ! what wit ! 
How profoundly felt and fascinating in their elegance ! 
Yet in reading his works we feel that all is written with a 
light hand, not for the sake of the ideas ; that is, we never 
feel that these ideas have been forcibly obtruded upon the 
artistic material, thereby paralysing the free development 
of the characters and situations. Then I delight in his 
truly Shakespearean anachronisms : for instance, when an 
imaginary King of Bavaria discusses the art of Grisi with 
some fantastic Duke of Mantua. Like Shakespeare, de 
Musset does not keep to the verities of place, yet all the 
same we find among his characters, as among those of 
Shakespeare, many of those universal human presentments 


who, independent of time and locality, belong to the eternal 
truth. Only with de Musset the frame is narrower and 
the flight less lofty. Nevertheless, no other dramatic 
writer approaches Shakespeare so closely. Les Caprices de 
Marianne has made a peculiarly strong impression upon 
me, and I have thought of nothing else all day long but 
the possibility of turning it into an opera. I feel the 
necessity of considering a libretto. My enthusiasm for 
Undine has cooled. I am still captivated by Romeo and 
Juliet, but first it is very difficult, and secondly, I am 
rather frightened of Gounod, who has already written a 
mediocre opera on this subject." 

ToN.F, Von Meek. 
" VERBOVKA August 2$th (September bth\ 187$. 

"... I have already told you that at Brailov I jotted 
down the sketch of a scherzo for orchestra. Afterwards 
the idea came to me of composing a series of orchestral 
pieces out of which I could put together a Suite, in the 
style of Lachner. Arrived at Verbovka, I felt I could not 
restrain my impulse, and hastened to work out on paper 
my sketches for this Suite. I worked at it with such 
delight and enthusiasm that I literally lost count of time. 
At the present moment three movements are finished, the 
fourth is sketched out, and the fifth sits waiting in my head. 
. . . The Suite will consist of five movements: (i) Intro- 
duction and Fugue, (2) Scherzo, (3) Andante, (4) Inter- 
mezzo (Echo du bal\ (5) Rondo. While engaged upon 
this work my thoughts were perpetually with you ; every 
moment I asked myself if such and such passages would 
please, or such and such melodies touch you ? Therefore 
my new work can only be dedicated to my best friend. 

" To-morrow I travel straight to Petersburg to see my 
father and Anatol again, and shall remain there two or 
three days. Then I go to Moscow. I look to the future 
with a little apprehension, a little sadness, and a trifle 
of disgust." 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
"KiEV, August 2^th (September io/$), 1878. 

"In to-day's paper (the Novoe Vremya) I found an 
article containing a mean, base and vulgar attack upon 
the Moscow Conservatoire. Very little is said about me 
personally ; it simply states that I occupy myself exclu- 
sively with music and take no part in the intrigues. 

" Going along in the train, with this paper in my hand, 
I resolved to resign my professorship. I should have done 
so immediately, and not returned to Moscow at all, if my 
rooms had not been already engaged, and if I had not 
been definitely expected at the Conservatoire. I have 
made up my mind to wait until December, then I will go 
to Kamenka for the holidays and write from there that I 
am indisposed. Of course I shall give private information 
of my intentions to Rubinstein, so that he may have time 
to engage another professor. So vive la liberte, and especi- 
ally Nadejda Filaretovna ! There is no doubt whatever 
that she will approve of my decision consequently I shall 
be able to lead a glorious, wandering life, sometimes in 
Kamenka, sometimes in Verbovka, sometimes in Peters- 
burg or abroad. . . . 

" For God's sake go on with your novel \ Work is the 
sole cure for les miseres de la vie humaine. Besides, it 
gives you independence. 

" You will say you have no time for writing because you 
are occupied all day with Kolya. All the same, I repeat : 
Write, write, write ! I might offer myself as an example. 
I used to have six hours' exhausting teaching at the Con- 
servatoire, besides living with Rubinstein whose ways 
hindered me exceedingly in a house next door to the 
Conservatoire, whence was borne the sound of unceasing 
scales and exercises which made it difficult to compose. 
Your occupations with Kolya may be somewhat heavier 
than my theory classes, but still I say, Write ! Meanwhile 
I embrace you, dear Modi ! What does anything matter 
when people love as I love you and you love me (forgive 
my self-assurance) ! " 



WHEN in 1877 Tchaikovsky declined to act 
as delegate for the Paris Exhibition, the 
office was accepted by Nicholas Rubinstein, 
who, in September, 1878, gave four im- 
portant concerts at the Trocadero, the programmes of 
which were drawn exclusively from the works of Russian 

Tchaikovsky was represented by the following works : the 
Pianoforte Concerto (B b minor), The Tempest \ Chant sans 
Paroles (played by Nicholas Rubinstein), and " Serenade 
and Valse " for violin (played by Bartzevich). The success 
of these compositions, especially of the Concerto, thanks to 
Rubinstein's artistic interpretation, was so great that, 
judging by the opinions of Tchaikovsky's friends and 
opponents, the chief interest of all four concerts centred 
in them. Eye - witnesses declare they never saw such 
enthusiasm in any concert-room as was displayed on the 
first evening after the performance of the B !? minor Con- 
certo. The work was repeated with equal success at the 
fourth concert. 

The Paris Press accorded the warmest greeting to 
Tchaikovsky, whose name was as yet almost unknown to 
them, the most appreciative criticisms being expended 
upon the Concerto. The Tempest came in for its share 


of applause, while the violin pieces were not so well 

The importance of Tchaikovsky's success was, however, 
greatly overrated, both by himself and all his friends, 
including N. Rubinstein. They none of them realised 
that Paris forgets as lightly as it warms to enthusiasm. 
Scarcely six months elapsed before The Tempest, which 
had delighted the Parisian public at the Trocadero, was 
received with suspicion and curiosity, as the unknown 
work of an unknown composer of queer Russian music. 

About the same time, Bilse brought forward Francesco, 
da Rimini in Berlin. Here, where Russian music had 
such propagandists as Hans von Billow and Klindworth, 
Tchaikovsky was not altogether unknown ; but although 
some of his works, like the Andante from the first 
quartet, were almost popular, yet the composer had been 
regarded with a certain disdain, and almost ignored by 
the majority of the German critics. This time it was 
different. On the same evening as Francesca, Bilse also 
conducted Brahms's Second Symphony, which, being a 
novelty, drew all the musical lights of Berlin to the 
concert. It was only thanks to these circumstances that 
Francesca was not entirely passed over by the critics. The 
Press split into two camps : one stood up for Brahms and 
attacked Tchaikovsky, the other took the opposite view. 
The hostile party was the stronger. Richard Wiirst called 
the work "a musical monstrosity." 1 "We know," he con- 
tinued, "a few songs, pianoforte pieces, and a Cossack 
fantasia (?) by this composer; these compositions bear the 
stamp of an original talent, but are not pleasing on the 
whole. In the Symphonic Fantasia (Francesco] this un- 
pleasantness is so obvious as to make us forget the 
originality of the composer. The first and last allegros, 
which depict the whirlwinds of hell, have neither subjects 

1 See the Berliner Frem denblatt, September lyth, 1878. 


nor ideas, but only a mass of sounds, and these ear- 
splitting effects seem to us, from an artistic point of view, 
too much even for hell itself. The middle section, which 
describes the unhappy fate of Francesca, Paolo, and 
myself, shows in spite of its endless length at least 
some trace of catching melody." Another critic, O. Lump- 
recht (National Zeitung, September I7th, 1878), applies to 
Francesca such terms as " madness," " musical contor- 
tions," etc. 

Among the friendly party Francesca was favourably 
compared to the Brahms Symphony, especially by Mosz- 
kowski. Among private opinions should be mentioned 
that of Hans von Biilow, who wrote to Tchaikovsky shortly 
after the performance that he was far more charmed with 
Francesca than with Romeo and Juliet. Kotek says that 
Joachim was pleased with the work in spite of his pre- 
possession in favour of his friend Brahms, while Max Bruch 
when asked his opinion of Francesca replied : " I am far 
too stupid to criticise such music." In spite of the over- 
ruling of unfavourable criticism, and its mediocre success 
with the public, Bilse had the courage to repeat Francesca 
da Rimini in the course of the same season. 

Early in September Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow 
to take up his duties at the Conservatoire. His quarters 
were already prepared for him. Nevertheless, before re- 
turning to the town he had once loved and believed to 
be a necessary part of his happiness, he had already 
resolved " to leave it again at the earliest opportunity." 

This curious discrepancy between his actions and his 
intentions, this external submission to, and inward protest 
against, the compelling circumstances of life, so character- 
istic of Tchaikovsky, has already become familiar to us. 
He was incapable of clearing a direct way for himself to 
some definite goal ; he could only desire intensely and 
await with patience the course of events, until the obstacles 


gave way of themselves and the path was open to him at 

After the mental collapse he had suffered, and during 
the pause in his creative activity in November and 
December, 1877, he thought of the return to his old life 
in Moscow with fear and trembling, while still regarding 
it as an inevitable necessity. The great distance which 
lay between himself and Moscow softened all its sharpness 
of outline, and veiled all the unpleasant side of life in that 
city. From far-away Italy and Switzerland he no longer 
looked back upon everyday Moscow, but saw rather the 
white City of the Tsars, with its flashing golden cupolas, 
which was so dear to his patriotic soul. He no longer 
saw the Conservatoire, with its tiresome classes and petty 
commonplace interests, but a little group of true friends 
for whom he yearned. All this drowned the resolve 
which already existed in his inmost heart, never to return 
to his old way of life. He attributed this dislike of his 
former existence to his ill-health, and cherished the hope 
that the ideal conditions of his life abroad would restore 
his nerves and soothe his irritability ; he was convinced 
that he would completely recover, and take up his pro- 
fessorship once more with a stout heart. 

But it proved otherwise. From the month of January, 
when he was able to arrange his life as he pleased, when, 
with improved health, the desire to compose awoke once 
more from the moment, in fact, in which his real recovery 
began life in Moscow seemed to him to be more dreadful 
and impossible ; his connection with the Conservatoire, 
and with the social life of the capital, more and more 
unbearable ; while the free, untrammelled existence in 
which nothing hindered his creative activity grew more 
attractive in his eyes. Never had Tchaikovsky been so 
lastingly happy as during the period dating from 1878. 
Never had "the calm, peaceful existence in solitude" 
appeared so alluring, nor his imagination so quick and so 


varied. Consequently everything which disturbed his 
existence at that happy time seemed hostile and unfavour- 
able to its continuance. 

Only the weak bond of his promise to return to the 
Conservatoire remained to be broken. 

At the moment in which Tchaikovsky left the train 
in which he arrived and set foot on Moscow soil, he 
was possessed with w the idea " of leaving again as soon as 
possible. This thought gradually grew into a fixed idea, 
under the influence of which everything that had once 
been dear to him his faithful friends included stirred in 
him an exaggerated feeling of resentment and, by way of 
reaction, caused everything which reminded him of his 
freedom to appear in a rosy light. In his first letters from 
Moscow he scarcely speaks on any other topic but the 
irksomeness of life there, and the delight with which he 
looks back to every detail of his visits to Italy, Switzer- 
land and Brailov. 

There was nothing to be done, however, until Rubin- 
stein's return from the Paris Exhibition, which would not 
be before the end of September. 

" I had been anxiously awaiting his coming," wrote 
Tchaikovsky to Nadejda von Meek, " because I wanted to 
tell him, as soon as possible, of my intention to retire from 
the Conservatoire. He was received with great rejoicings, 
and a dinner in his honour was given at ' The Hermitage/ * 
at which I was present. In his reply to the first toast 
to his health, Rubinstein said he had been greatly gratified 
by the success of my works at his concerts, that the Con- 
servatoire had reason to be proud of its connection with so 
famous a man, etc. The speech ended in an ovation to 
me. I need hardly tell you how painful this speech and 
ovation were. 

"The next day I informed him of my future plans. I 
expected Nicholas Rubinstein to burst forth with indigna- 
tion, and try to convince me that it was better for me 

1 A famous restaurant in Moscow. 


to stay where I was. On the contrary, he listened to 
me laughingly, as one might to a tiresome child, and 
expressed his regret. He merely remarked that the Con- 
servatoire would lose a great deal of its prestige with the 
withdrawal of my name, which was as good as saying that 
the pupils would not really suffer much by my resignation. 
Probably he is right, for I am a poor and inexperienced 
teacher yet I anticipated greater opposition to my resig- 

It was decided that Tchaikovsky should stay on for a 
month or two at the Conservatoire, in order to give his 
successor Taneiev time to prepare for his classes ; but 
when it was announced that Hubert, not Taneiev, was to 
succeed him, he " hastened the course of events " and in- 
formed Rubinstein that he should leave Moscow early in 

From Moscow Tchaikovsky went to St. Petersburg, 
which was equally unsuited to his condition of mind. The 
invitations to dinners, suppers, and evening parties, fatigued 
him and wore him out. The bad impression which Peters- 
burg left upon him on this occasion was increased by the 
disappointment he experienced as regards his favourite 
opera, Vakoula the Smith^ which was just being given at 
the Maryinsky Theatre. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PETERSBURG, October $vth (November nth), 1878. 

" Vakoula the Smith went quite smoothly and well, just 
as it did at the first performance ; but it was very stereo- 
typed and colourless. All the while I felt angry with one 
man : that was myself. Good Lord ! what heaps of unpar- 
donable mistakes there are in this opera which I alone 
could have made ! I have done my best to neutralise the 
effect of all those situations which were calculated to please. 
If only I had held the purely musical inspiration in check, 
and kept the scenic and decorative effects more in view ! 
The entire opera suffers from a plethora of details and the 
tiresome use of chromatic harmonies. Cest un menu sur- 


chargt de mets epice's. It contains too many delicacies and 
not enough simple, wholesome fare. The recent production 
of the opera has been a lesson to me for the future. I 
think Eugene Oniegin is a step in advance." 


At the beginning of November Tchaikovsky went to 
Kamenka, and here for the first time he began to breathe 
freely after two anxious and depressing months. 

" I feel very well here," he wrote in November. To " feel 
well " was the equivalent with him of " being equal to hard 
work." As a matter of fact he composed more at Kamenka 
in a fortnight than during the two months he had spent in 
Moscow and Petersburg. On November I3th (25th) he 
wrote to his brother Modeste : 

" Inspiration has come to me, so the sketch of the Suite 
is almost finished. But I am anxious because I left the 
manuscript of the first three movements in Petersburg, 
and it may get lost. I wrote the last two movements here. 
This short and if I am not mistaken. excellent Suite is 
in five movements: (i) Introduction and Fugue, (2) Scherzo, 
(3) Andante, (4) March Miniature, (5) Giant's Dance." 

To A. Tchaikovsky. 
"FLORENCE, November 2ist (December $rd\ 1878. 

"... I came here yesterday, direct from Vienna, without 
visiting Venice. I was met by Pakhulsky (Kotek's succes- 
sor with N. F. von Meek), who took me to my quarters, 
which were warm and bright, and all ready for their 
admiring tenant. 

" The apartment Nadejda Filaretovna has taken for me 
consists of a suite of five rooms : drawing-room, dining- 
room, bedroom, dressing-room, and a room for Alexis. 

"In the drawing-room there is a splendid grand piano, 
on the writing-table every kind of stationery, and two 


big bouquets. The furniture is luxurious. I am delighted 
that the house stands outside the town, and that I have 
such a beautiful view from my windows ! 

" On the journey here I was troubled with the thought 
that Nadejda Filaretovna would be living so close to me ; 
that we might meet. I even had a momentary suspicion 
that she might invite me. But a letter from her, which I 
found upon my writing-table yesterday, completely set my 
mind at rest. She will be leaving in three weeks, and 
during that time probably we shall not see each other once." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, November 2vth (December 2nd), 1878. 

". . . If you knew what a blessing this quiet, regular, 
and solitary life is, especially in such sympathetic sur- 
roundings ! I shall begin the instrumentation of the 
Suite with ardour, because I am strongly attracted to a 
new subject for an opera : Schiller's Maid of Orleans. 
. . . This idea came to me at Kamenka, while turning over 
the pages of Joukovsky. The subject offers much musical 
material. Verdi's opera, Giovanna d'Arco, is not taken 
from Schiller in the first place, and secondly it is extremely 
poor. But I am glad I bought it. It will be very useful 
to compare the libretto with the French." 

" November 22nd (December 4//fc), 1878. 

" I have never thanked you, my good fairy, for the fine 
instrument. I often reproach myself for not being suffi- 
ciently grateful. On the other hand I am afraid of weary- 
ing you with my reiterated assurance of gratitude." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 
"FLORENCE, November 2^th (December 6M), 1878. 

" In the evening I often pace my verandah and enjoy the 
utter stillness. That strikes you as peculiar: how can 
anyone enjoy the absence of all sound, you will ask ? If 
you were a musician, perhaps you, too, would have the gift 
of hearing, when all is still in the dead silence of night, the 
deep bass note which seems to come from the earth in its 
flight through space. But this is nonsense ! " 


To N. F. von Meek. 

" FLORENCE, November 26th (December 8//z), 1878. 
" Please send me the Lalo Concerto again. I only 
looked through the first movement attentively, and found 
it rather insipid. After what you have written I should 
like to run through the work again. 

" I read Italian pretty well, but speak it badly. Once 
upon a time I studied it and could speak fluently. That 
was in the days of my admiration for Ristori. 

" I place Massenet lower than Bizet, Delibes, or even 
Saint-Saens, but he, too, has like all our French con- 
temporaries that element of freshness which is lacking in 
the Germans. 

8 p.m. 

" Modeste's telegram was a pleasant surprise. I had no 
idea the Symphony (No. 4) was going to be played yet. 
His news of its success is entirely trustworthy. First, 
because Modeste knows that I am not pleased when 
people send me exaggerated reports of such events ; and 
secondly because the Scherzo was encored an undoubted 
proof of success. After this news I am entirely lost in 
our Symphony. All day long I keep humming it, and 
trying to recall how, where, and under what impression 
this or that part of it was composed. I go back to two 
years ago, and return to the present with joy ! What a 
change ! What has not happened during these years ! 
When I began to work at the Symphony I hardly knew 
you at all. I remember very well, however, that I dedi- 
cated my work to you. Some instinct told me that no one 
had such a fine insight into my music as yourself, that our 
natures had much in common, and that you would under- 
stand the contents of this Symphony better than any other 
human being. I love this child of my fancy very dearly. 
It is one of the things which will never disappoint me." 

The success of the Fourth Symphony, at a concert of 
the Russian Musical Society in St. Petersburg, on Novem- 
ber 25th (December /th), was most brilliant, and the Press 
was almost unanimous in its acknowledgment of the fact. 


3 2 7 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, November 27^ (December gtti), 1878. 

" Permit me, dear friend, to give you my opinion of Lalo's 
Concerto, which I have played through several times, and 
begin to know pretty thoroughly. Lalo is very talented, 
there is no doubt about it, but he is either a very young 
man because all his deficiencies may be referred to a 
certain immaturity of style or he will not go far, since, 
in a man of ripe age, these deficiencies point to an organic, 
incurable fault. I do not consider the Concerto as good as 
the ' Spanish Symphony.' All that was wild, lawless, and 
rhapsodical in the latter which I attributed to the oriental 
and Moorish character of the Spanish melodies is to be 
found also in the Concerto, which, however, is not at all 
Spanish. Let us analyse the first movement. It does not 
consist of two themes, as is usually the case, but of several 
of five, in fact. 

fnV 4 f 

/* Z 

* j 

* * 

I go 4 A 

i r 

9 i 




rff r 

r-H E 




A 1 





f -f r 

__ 1 L 





L. i 1 


" This is too much. A musical work must be digestible, 
and should not consist of too many ingredients. Then, 



of these themes, only the fifth can be considered successful. 
The rest are colourless, or, like the second, made up 
of scraps, which have no organic unity and lack definite 
outline. Thirdly, every one of these themes, except the 
fifth, shows a monotonous method, which occurs only too 
often in the ' Spanish Symphony ' : the alternation of 
rhythms of 3 and 2. If a man cannot keep his inspira- 
tion within the limits of balanced form, then he should 
strive, at least, to vary the rhythms of his themes ; in this 
Concerto the rhythmical treatment is monotonous. I will 
say nothing about the laboured way in which the various 
episodes follow one another ; it would take us too far 
afield. Then as to harmony. The Concerto is full of queer, 
wild harmonies. In a modest violin Concerto such spicy 
condiments are out of place ; but apart from that, I must 
say they have a kind of crude character, because they are 
not the outcome of the essential musical idea, but are 
forced upon it, like a schoolboy's bravado put on for his 
teacher's benefit. Other passages also in the schoolboy 
style are really rather slovenly, so to speak. For instance, 
this ' smudge ' a la Moussorgsky, which occurs twice over : 




, ..- 



>- f f 


i u- ^ f 

1 1 ' 

" If we play this horrible combination in quavers we get 
the following : 


fy jff 2 II gf 
*v 3- t ^ 9 

" This is repulsive, and quite unnecessary, because it is 
based upon nothing, and at first I took it for a misprint. 


Do not imagine, my friend, that it is the pedantic harmony 
master who speaks thus. I myself am very partial to 
dissonant combinations, when they have a motive, and are 
rightly used. But there are limits which must not be 
overstepped. Now, to enter into technical details, let me 
say that no breach of the laws of harmony, no matter 
whether it is harsh or not, really sounds well unless it has 
been made under the influence of the melodic origin. In 
other words, a dissonance should only be resolved harmoni- 
cally, or melodically. If neither of these courses is adopted, 
we merely get abominations d la Moussorgsky. In the 
example cited above I might possibly be reconciled to 
the painful dissonance if, in the next bar, each part fol- 
lowed the melodic plan. But this is not the case with 
Lalo. With him abomination follows abomination. Now 
that I have done scolding, I will say something good. 
The various movements, although disconnected, show 
warmth and many beautiful details of harmony. On the 
whole the music has a piquant character. peculiarly French, 
although not nearly so elegant as Bizet's work." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"FLORENCE, November 2$>th (December 10^), 1878. 

" Yesterday's performance at Pergola left a sad impres- 
sion upon me. What a deterioration Italian music has 
suffered! What commonplace, yet pretentious stuff! 
What an incredibly poor performance as regards orchestra 
and chorus ! The staging, too, was wretched. Such 
scenery in the town where Raphael and Michael Angelo 
once lived ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"FLORENCE, December $th (17^), 1878. 

" A great number of my works I regard as weak. 
Several of these (the minority) have been published. 
Of those unpublished, many no longer exist, such as the 
operas Undine and The Voyevode (which were never per- 
formed), the symphonic fantasia Fatum, a Festival overture 
on the Danish National Hymn, and a cantata; but you 
are welcome to those I have kept, in order to complete 


your collection. They are very poor, although they 
contain some episodes and details I should be sorry to 
see disappear for ever. 

" Laroche does not call me the enemy of programme 
music, but thinks I have no gift for this kind of work ; 
therefore he describes me as an anti-programme composer. 
He takes every opportunity of expressing his regret that 
I so frequently compose programme music. What is pro- 
gramme music ? Since for you and me a mere pattern of 
sounds has long since ceased to be music at all, all music 
is programme music from our point of view. In the 
limited sense of the word, however, it means symphonic, 
or, more generally, instrumental music which illustrates 
a definite subject, and bears the title of this subject. 
Beethoven partly invented programme music in the 
'Eroica' symphony, but the idea is still more evident in 
the 'Pastoral.' The true founder of programme music, 
however, was Berlioz, every one of whose works not only 
bears a definite title, but appears with a detailed explana- 
tion. Laroche is entirely opposed to a programme. He 
thinks the composer should leave the hearer to interpret 
the meaning of the work as he pleases ; that the pro- 
gramme limits his freedom ; that music is incapable of 
expressing the concrete phenomena of the physical and 
mental world. Nevertheless, he ranks Berlioz very highly, 
declares him to be an altogether rare genius and his music 
exemplary ; but, all the same, he considers his programmes 
superfluous. If you care to hear my opinion on the sub- 
ject, I will give it in a few words. I think the inspiration 
of a symphonic work can be of two kinds : subjective or 
objective. In the first instance it expresses the personal 
emotion of joy or sorrow, as when the lyric poet lets his 
soul flow out in verse. Here a programme is not only 
unnecessary, but impossible. It is very different when the 
composer's inspiration is stirred by the perusal of some 
poem, or by the sight of a fine landscape, and he en- 
deavours to express his impressions in musical forms. In 
this case a programme is indispensable, and it is a pity 
Beethoven did not affix one to the sonata you mention. 
To my mind, both kinds of music have their raison d'etre, 
and I cannot understand those who will only admit one of 


these styles. Of course, every subject is not equally suit- 
able for a symphony, any more than for an opera ; but, 
all the same, programme music can and must exist. Who 
would insist in literature upon ignoring the epic and 
admitting only the lyric element?" 


Shortly after writing the above letter Tchaikovsky left 
Florence for Paris. He did not remain there any length 
of time, but went to Clarens on December 28th in order 
to work at The Maid of Orleans in the quiet atmosphere 
of the Villa Richelieu. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"CLARENS, December 31^ (January \2th\ 1878. 
" To-day I began to work, and wrote out the first chorus 
of the first act. The composition of this work is rendered 
more difficult because I have no ready-made libretto, and 
have not yet come to any definite plan as to the general 
outline. Meanwhile, only the text for the first act is com- 
plete. This I have written myself, keeping as far as 
possible to Joukovsky's version, although I have drawn 
upon other sources : Barbier, for instance, whose tragedy 
has many good points. I find the versification very 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" CLARENS, January StA (20^), 1879. 

" I am very well pleased with my musical work. As 
regards the literary side of it, I believe it will cost me 
some days of my life. I cannot describe how it exhausts 
me. How many penholders I gnaw to pieces before a 
few lines grow perfect ! How often I jump up in sheer 
despair because I cannot find a rhyme, or the metre goes 
wrong, or because I have absolutely no notion what this 
or that character would say at a particular moment ! As 
regards rhyme, I think it would be a blessing if someone 


would publish a rhyming dictionary. If I am not mis- 
taken, there is one in German, and perhaps in Russian too, 
but I am not sure of it." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 
" CLARENS, January 14^(26^), 1879. 

" There exist, as you are aware, three remarkable per- 
sonages, whom you know intimately : the feeble poetaster 
N. N., 1 who has written a few verses for your editions of 
Russian songs ; B. L., 2 formerly musical critic of the 
Russky Viedomosti, and the composer and ex-professor, 
Mr. Tchaikovsky. 

" An hour or two ago Mr. Tchaikovsky invited the two 
other gentlemen who live with him to follow him to the 
piano, and played them the second act of his new opera 
The Maid of Orleans. Mr. Tchaikovsky, who is on very 
intimate terms with Messrs. N. N. and B. L., conquered 
his timidity without much difficulty, and played his new 
work with great skill and inspiration. You should have 
seen the enthusiasm of these two gentlemen ! Anyone 
might have supposed they had some share in the composi- 
tion of the opera, to see how they strutted about the room 
and admired the music. Finally, the composer, who had 
long tried to preserve his modesty intact, was infected by 
their enthusiasm, and all three rushed on to the balcony, 
as though possessed, to cool their disordered nerves and 
control their wild desire to hear the rest of the opera as 
soon as possible. In vain Messrs. N. N. and B. L. en- 
deavoured to persuade Mr. Tchaikovsky that operas could 
not be tossed out like pancakes, the latter began to 
despair over the weakness of human nature and the 
impossibility of transferring to paper in a single night 
all that had long been seething in his brain. Finally, 
the good folks induced the insane composer to calm him- 
self, and he sat down to write to a certain publisher in 
Moscow. . . ." 

1 The initials under which Tchaikovsky translated the German words of 
Rubinstein's songs. 

Tchaikovsky's signature to his articles in the Russky Viedomosti. 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"January 2Qth (February ist), 1879. 

" Of the music you sent me, I have only played, as yet, 
through the pieces by Grieg and two acts of Goldmark's 
opera, The Queen of Sheba. I do not know if I ever told 
you that I bought Le Roi de Lahore in Paris. Thus I 
possess two operas of the most modern French school. 
Let me tell you, dear friend, that I have no hesitation in 
giving the preference to Le Roi de Lahore. I know you 
do not care very much for Massenet, and hitherto I, too, 
have not felt drawn to him. His opera, however, has 
captivated me by its rare beauty of form, its simplicity 
and freshness of ideas and style, as well by its wealth of 
melody and distinction of harmony. Goldmark's opera 
does not greatly please me just enough to interest me in 
playing it through. Yet it is the work of a good German 
master. But all the German composers of the present day 
write laboriously, with pretensions to depth of thought, 
and strive to atone for their extraordinary poverty of in- 
vention by exaggerated colouring. For instance, the duet 
in the second act. How unvocal ! How little freedom it 
gives to the singer ! What insipid melodies ! Massenet's 
love duet, on the contrary, is far simpler, but a thousand 
times fresher, more beautiful, more melodious. . . . 

" Learn to know this opera, dear friend, and give me 
your opinion upon it. 

" My work progresses. I am composing the first scene 
of Act III." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
11 CLARENS, January 2$th (February $th\ 1879. 

" Do not be surprised if my letter is somewhat in- 
coherent. I am very tired after my day's work. To-day 
I wrote the love duet in the second act, and it is very 
complicated, so that at the present moment my brain works 
with difficulty. I jumped from the first scene of the third 
act to the fourth, because it is not so easy, and I wanted 
to get the most difficult scene between Lionel and Joan 
off my mind. On the whole I am pleased with myself, 
but feel rather exhausted. In Paris, I will rest by returning 


to my Suite and leaving the two remaining scenes of the 
opera until my return to Russia. 

" I have added a new joy to life. In Geneva I bought 
the pianoforte arrangements of several Mozart and Beet- 
hoven quartets, and I play one every evening. You have 
no idea how I enjoy this, and how it refreshes me ! I 
would give anything for my Maid of Orleans to turn out 
as good as Le Roi de Lahore" 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"January 2$th (February 6th\ 1879. 

" I will gladly follow your advice and write to Jurgenson 
to send a copy of Eugene Oniegin to Biilow. Generally 
speaking, I never send my works on my own initiative to 
musical celebrities, but Biilow is an exception, because he 
is really interested in Russian music and in me personally. 
He is the sole German musician who admits the possi- 
bility of the Russians rivalling the Germans as com- 
posers. Speaking of the German view of our compatriots, 
I do not think I ever told you about the fiasco of my 
Francesca in Berlin this winter. Bilse gave it twice. The 
second performance was a daring act on his part, since 
after the first hearing the entire Press was unanimous in 
damning my unfortunate fantasia. . . ." 


To P. I. Jurgenson. 

"PARIS, February 6th (i8//fc), 1879. 

" Do you imagine I am going to dish you up my impres- 
sions of Paris ? * You are mistaken, friend,' as Kashkin is 
always saying. I only arrived early this morning. My 
departure from Clarens was highly dramatic. The land- 
lady wept ; the landlord shook me warmly by the hand ; 
the maid (a very nice creature) also wept, so that I, too, 
was reduced to tears. I assure you I have never been 
so comfortable anywhere abroad as there. If circum- 
stances permit, and no untoward changes occur in my 


life, I intend henceforth to spend a considerable part of 
each winter in Clarens. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"February loth (22nd), 1879. 

" At the present moment I am engaged upon the great 
ensemble in the third act (septet and chorus), which pre- 
sents many technical difficulties. The first part of the 
septet is finished, and very successful, if I am not mistaken. 
The brilliance and bustle of Paris have their advantages. 
The variety of circumstances and impressions distract my 
thoughts from the musical work. Perhaps this is the 
reason why the number which I expected to find most 
fatiguing has proved comparatively easy. For the books 
and music I am very grateful to you. . . ." 

To P. /. Jurgenson. 

"PARIS, February i$th (25^), 1879. 

" Here I live the life of an anchorite, and only emerge 
twice a day to satisfy the cravings of my stomach and take 
a little exercise. 

" Last Sunday, however, I had a real musical treat. 
Colonne conducted one of my favourite works Berlioz's 
Faust. The performance was excellent. It was so long 
since I had heard any good music that I was steeped in 
bliss, all the more because I was alone, with no acquaint- 
ances sitting by my side. What a work ! ! Poor Berlioz ! 
As long as he was alive no one wanted to hear about him. 
Now the newspapers call him ' the mighty Hector. . . .' 
O God, how happy I am now ! Did I ever dream that I 
should enjoy life so much?. . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February igth (March $rd), 1879. 

" My whole life long I have been a martyr to my en- 
forced relations with society. By nature I am a savage. 
Every new acquaintance, every fresh contact with strangers, 
has been the source of acute moral suffering. It is difficult 
to say what is the nature of this suffering. Perhaps it 


springs from a shyness which has become a mania, per- 
haps from absolute indifference to the society of my 
fellows, or perhaps the difficulty of saying, without effort, 
things about oneself that one does not really think (for 
social intercourse involves this) in short, I do not really 
know what it is. So long as I was not in a position to 
avoid such intercourse, I went into society, pretended to 
enjoy myself, played a certain part (since it is absolutely 
indispensable to social existence), and suffered horribly all 
the time. I could wax eloquent on the subject. . . . To 
cut a long story short, however, I will merely tell you that 
two years ago Count Leo Tolstoi, the writer, expressed a 
wish to make my acquaintance. He takes a great interest 
in music. Of course, I made a feeble attempt to escape 
from him, but without success. He came to the Conserva- 
toire and told Rubinstein he had not left the town because 
he wanted to meet me. Tolstoi is very sympathetic to- 
wards my musical gifts. It was impossible to avoid his 
acquaintance, which was obviously flattering and agreeable. 
We met, and I, assuming the part of a man who is im- 
mensely gratified, said I was very happy most grateful 
a whole series of indispensable but insincere phrases. { I 
want to know you better/ he said ; * I should like to talk to 
you about music.' Then and there, after we had shaken 
hands, he began to give me his musical views. He con- 
siders Beethoven lacks inspiration. We started with this. 
Thus this writer of genius, this searcher of human hearts, 
began by asserting, in a tone of complete assurance, what 
was most offensive to the stupidity of the musician. 
What is to be done under such circumstances? Discuss? 
Yes, I discussed. But could such a discussion be regarded 
as serious ? Properly speaking, I ought to have felt 
honoured by his notice. Probably another would have 
been. I merely felt uncomfortable, and continued to enact 
the comedy pretending to be grateful and in earnest. 
Afterwards he called upon me several times, and although 
after this meeting I came to the conclusion that Tolstoi, if 
somewhat paradoxical, was straightforward, good, and in 
his way had even a fine taste for music, yet, at the same 
time, I had no more to gain from his acquaintance than 
from that of any other man. 


" The society of another fellow-creature is only pleasant 
when a long-standing intimacy, or common interests, make 
it possible to dispense with all effort. Unless this is the 
case, society is a burden which I was never intended by 
nature to endure. 

" This is the reason, dear friend, why I have not called 
upon Tourgeniev. There are numbers of people I might 
visit here. Saint-Saens, for instance, on whom I promised 
to call whenever I was in Paris. Anyone else in my 
place would make the acquaintance of the local musicians. 
It is a pity I cannot, for I lose a good deal by my mis- 
anthropy. Oh, if you only knew how I have struggled 
against this weakness, how hard I have contended with my 
strange temperament in this respect ! 

" Now I am at rest. I am finally convinced that at my 
age it is useless to continue my education. I assure you I 
have been very happy since I drew into my shell, and since 
music and books became my faithful and inseparable com- 
panions. As to intercourse with famous people, I know 
from experience that their works, musical or literary, are 
far more interesting than their personalities." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"PARIS, February 22nd (March 6M), 1879. 

" DEAR MODI, Yesterday was a very important day 
for me. Quite unexpectedly I finished the opera. When 
you have written the last word of a novel you will under- 
stand what a joy it is to feel such a weight off your mind. 
To squeeze music out of one's brain every day for ten 
weeks is indeed an exhausting process. Now I can breathe 
freely ! 

"Yesterday evening I walked about Paris feeling quite 
another man. I even sauntered, and perhaps that is why my 
old love for the place is reawakened. Perhaps, too, the fact 
that Colonne intends to give my Tempest at the next Sun- 
day concert has something to do with it. Now I see my 
name on all the hoardings and posters I feel quite at home. 
I will confess that although I am pleased, yet I am also 
rather anxious. I know beforehand that it will not be well 
played, and will be hissed by the public the invariable 


fate of all my compositions abroad. Therefore it would be 
better if the performance took place after I have left Paris. 
It cannot be helped, however. I shall have to endure some 
misery on Sunday, but not much, because I am only here 
as a bird of passage, and I know that the time is coming 
when I need not endure any more. 

"In any case, yesterday and to-day I have strutted 
through the streets of Paris like a cock, and comforted 
myself with the feeling that I need not work. You would 
never have recognised your brother in a new overcoat, silk 
hat, and elegant gloves. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February 24^ (March 8M), 1879. 

"Yesterday I saw UAssomoir. It is interesting to sit 
through this piece, for it is highly entertaining to see washer- 
women getting up linen in the second scene, all the char- 
acters dead drunk in the sixth, and in the eighth, the death 
of a confirmed toper in an attack of delirium tremens. 
The play deals a double blow at that feeling for beauty 
which exists in us all. First, it is adapted from a novel 
written by a talented, but cynical, man who chooses to 
wallow in human filth, moral and physical. Secondly, to 
make it more effective and pander to the taste of the 
Boulevard public, a melodramatic element has been brought 
into the play which is not in keeping with the rest of it. 
In this way LAssomoir loses on the stage its chief merit 
the wonderfully realistic presentment of everyday life. 

"But what do you think of Monsieur Zola, the high 
priest of the realistic cult, the austere critic who recognises 
no literary art but his own, when he allows perfectly unreal 
and improbable episodes and characters to be tacked on to 
his play all for the sake of a royalty ? " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
"PARIS, February zbth (March io/^), 1879. 

"Yesterday was a very exciting day. In the morning 
at the Chatelet Concert the performance of my Tempest 
took place. The agonies I endured are the best proof that 
a country life is the most tolerable for me. What used to 


be a pleasure the hearing of one of my own works has 
now become a source of misery. The evening before I 
began to suffer from colic and nausea. My agitation con- 
tinued to grow crescendo until the opening chords, and 
while the work was proceeding I felt I should die of the 
pain in my heart. It was not the fear of failure with the 
public, but because lately the first hearing of all my works 
has brought me the sharpest disappointment. Mendels- 
sohn's Reformation symphony preceded The Tempest, and 
all the time I was admiring this fine masterpiece. I have 
not attained to the rank of a master. I still write like a 
gifted young man from whom much is to be expected. 
What surprised me chiefly was the fact that my orchestra- 
tion sounded so poor. Of course, my reason told me I was 
exaggerating my own defects, but this was no great con- 
solation. The Tempest was not badly played. The orches- 
tra took pains, but showed no warmth of enthusiasm. One 
member of the band (a 'cellist) kept staring, smiling, and 
nodding his head, as much as to say : ' Excuse our playing 
such an extraordinary work ; it is not our fault ; we are 
ordered to play it, and we obey.' After the last bars had 
died away, there followed some feeble applause, mingled 
with two or three audible hisses, at which the whole room 
broke out into exclamations of 'O ! O !' which were intended 
as a kindly protest against the hisses. Then came silence. 
The whole business passed over me without leaving any 
special bitterness. I was only vexed to feel that The 
Tempest, which I have hitherto regarded as one of my 
most brilliant works, is in reality so unimportant. I left 
the room and, as the weather was very fine, took a two 
hours' stroll. On returning home I wrote a card to Colonne, 
telling him that I could only remain another day in Paris, 
and could not therefore call to thank him personally. 

" I must soon leave Paris. I am reconciled to the failure 
of The Tempest. I speak of it as a failure to myself, but I 
console myself with the thought that after the opera and 
the Suite I shall at last compose a fine symphonic work. 
And so, in all probability, I shall strive for mastery until 
my last breath, without ever attaining it. Something is 
lacking in me I can feel it but there is nothing to be 


The Gazette Musicale published Tchaikovsky's letter to 
Colon ne, which ran as follows : 

" SIR, As luck would have it, I came to Paris for one 
day only, the very one upon which you presented my 
Tempest to the public. I was at the Chatelet. I heard it, 
and hasten to thank you for the kind and flattering at- 
tention bestowed on my music, and for your fine interpre- 
tation of my difficult and ungrateful work. I also send my 
hearty thanks to the members of your splendid orchestra 
for the trouble they took to interpret every detail of the 
score in the most artistic way. 

" As to the feeble applause and somewhat energetic 
hisses with which the public greeted my unlucky Tempest, 
they affected me deeply, but did not surprise me I 
expected them. If a certain degree of prejudice against 
our Muscovite barbarity had something to do with this, 
the intrinsic defects of the work itself are also to blame. 
The form is diffuse and lacking in proportion. In any 
case the performance which, as I have said, was excellent, 
has nothing to do with the failure of the work. 

" I should certainly have gone round to shake hands 
with you and express my gratitude in person, had not 
the state of my health prevented my doing so. I am only 
passing through Paris. I am obliged therefore, dear sir, 
to have recourse to my pen, in order to convey to you my 
thanks. Rest assured that my gratitude will not be effaced 

from my heart. , r , , 

" Your devoted 

" P. T." 

In publishing this letter, the Gazette Musicale preceded 
it by a few lines in praise of " this rare witness to the noble 
and sincere modesty of a composer." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February i^th (March nth), 1879. 

" For the first time in my life I have read Rousseau's 
Confessions. I do not know if I ought to recommend the 
book to you, supposing you have never read it, for side by 


side with passages of genius, it contains much cynical in- 
formation which makes it almost unfit for a woman to 
read. Nevertheless I cannot help admiring the astonishing 
strength and beauty of style, as well as the true and pro- 
found analysis of the human soul. Apart from this, I 
find an indescribable delight in recognising features in my 
own character which I have never met with before in any 
literary work, and which are here described with extra- 
ordinary subtlety. For instance, he explains why, being a 
clever man, he never succeeds in giving any impression 
of his cleverness when in society. He speaks of his mis- 
anthropical tendencies, and of the unbearable necessity of 
keeping up forced conversations, when, in order to keep 
the ball rolling, one is obliged to pour forth empty words 
which in no way express the result of intellectual work, or 
spiritual impulse. How subtle and true are his remarks 
upon the scourge of social life." 

At the beginning of March Tchaikovsky returned to 
St. Petersburg. As invariably happened when his solitude 
was interrupted and a break in his work occurred, he now 
passed through a period of depression and discontent with 
his surroundings, which were actually in no way to blame 
for his frame of mind. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" March i$th (25^), 1879. 

"... On Friday I go to Moscow with my brothers to 
attend the first performance of Eugene Oniegin, after 
which I shall return to Petersburg, where I remain until 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PETERSBURG, March igth (si*/), 1879. 
" I have just returned from Moscow. Instead of leaving 
on Friday, I went on Wednesday, because Jurgenson tele- 
graphed that my presence was required at the last 
rehearsal. I arrived just before the costume rehearsal 
took place. The stage was fully lighted, but the hall 


itself was quite dark, which gave me the opportunity of 
concealing myself in a corner and listening to the opera 
undisturbed. On the whole the performance was very 
satisfactory. The orchestra and chorus got through their 
business splendidly. The soloists, on the other hand, left 
much to be desired. . . . 

" These hours, spent in a dark corner of the theatre, 
were the only pleasant ones during my visit to Moscow. 
Between the acts I saw all my former colleagues once 
more. I observed with delight that the music of Oniegin 
seemed to win their favour. Nicholas Rubinstein, who is 
so parsimonious in praise, told me that he had ' fallen in 
love' with it. After the first act Taneiev wanted to 
express his sympathy, instead of which he burst into 
tears. I cannot really tell you how this touched me. 
. . . On Saturday (the day of the performance) my 
brothers and a few other Petersburgers, among them 
Anton Rubinstein, arrived early. 

" Throughout the day I was greatly excited, especially 
as I had yielded to Nicholas Rubinstein's entreaty and 
declared my willingness to come before the curtain in case 
I should be called for. 

" During the performance my excitement reached its 
zenith. Before it began, Nicholas Rubinstein invited me 
behind the scenes, where, to my horror, I found myself 
confronted by the whole Conservatoire. At the head of 
the professors stood . Nicholas Grigorievich himself, who 
handed me a wreath, amid the hearty applause of the 
bystanders. Of course I had to say a few words in answer 
to Rubinstein's speech. God knows what it cost me ! 
Between the acts I was recalled several times. I have 
never seen such an enthusiastic audience. I draw this 
conclusion from the fact that it was invariably myself not 
the performers who received a recall. 

"After the performance there was a supper at 'The Her- 
mitage/ at which even Anton Rubinstein was present. I 
have absolutely no idea whether my Oniegin pleased 
him or not. He never said a word to me on the subject. 
It was 4 a.m. before I returned home with a splitting head- 
ache, and spent a wretched night. I recovered during the 
return journey to Petersburg, and to-day I feel quite 


refreshed. I shall try not to go out during the next fort- 
night, but to give myself up in earnest to the instrumenta- 
tion of my Suite." 

To Tchaikovsky's account of the first performance, I can 
only add my personal impression that the actual success of 
the opera was poor, and the ovation given to my brother 
was rather in consideration of former services than in 
honour of the music itself, which had only a moderate 

This cool reception of a work, afterwards to become one 
of Tchaikovsky's most popular operas, can be accounted for 
in the first place by its indifferent interpretation. It had 
been carefully prepared, but was entrusted to inexperienced 
students of the Conservatoire, instead of mature artists; 
consequently the work was not represented in its best 
light. The comparatively recent period of the tale, and 
the audacity of the librettist in representing upon the stage 
the almost canonised personality of Tatiana, and, what 
was still worse, the additions made to Poushkin's incom- 
parable poem all contributed to set public taste against 
the opera. Besides which, both libretto and music lacked 
those dramatic incidents which generally evoke the public 

Respecting Anton Rubinstein's judgment of Eugene 
Oniegin, the widow of the great pianist said that her hus- 
band was not at all pleased with the opera at the first 
hearing. On his return to Petersburg he criticised the 
work from beginning to end, and declared it to be utterly 
wanting in the " grand opera style." Some years later he 
altered his opinion, and when his wife reminded him of the 
first failure of the work, replied : " What do you know 
about it? No one who has been brought up upon gipsy 
songs and Italian opera has any right to criticise such 
a composition." 

With the exception of Laroche, most of the critics praised 
Eugene Oniegin, although without much enthusiasm. 



Early in April Tchaikovsky left Petersburg for Kamenka. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, April \$th (26^), 1879. 

" My opera reposes for the time being in my portfolio. 
I am working at the Suite. To-day I finished the score, 
and to-morrow I shall start upon the arrangement for four 
hands. ... 

"I have another fortnight's work to bestow upon the 
Suite. At Brailov I shall be able to give myself up entirely 
to my increasing love of nature. There is no other spot in 
the world which can offer me so much in this respect. To 
live in your house, to feel myself free and alone, to be able 
to visit the forests every day and wander all day among 
the flowers, to listen to the nightingale at night, to read 
your books, play upon your instruments and think of 
you these are joys I cannot find elsewhere." 

To P. Jurgenson. 
" KAMENKA, April 22nd (May tfh), 1879. 

" I am beginning to be proud of my works, now that I 
see what an extraordinary effect some of them make. 
Everyone here is crazy over the Andante, and when I 
played it with my brother as a pianoforte duet, one girl 
fainted away (this is a fact ! !). To make the fair sex 
faint is the highest triumph to which any composer can 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May $th (17^), 1879. 

" Yesterday I began to study the score of Lohengrin. I 
know you are no great admirer of Wagner, and I, too, am 
far from being a desperate Wagnerite. I am not very 
sympathetic to Wagnerism as a principle. Wagner's per- 
sonality arouses my antipathy, yet I must do justice to his 


great musical gift. This reaches its climax in Lohengrin, 
which will always remain the crown of all his works. 
After Lohengrin, began the deterioration of his talent, 
which was ruined by his diabolical vanity. He lost all 
sense of proportion, and began to overstep all limits, so 
that everything he composed after Lohengrin became in- 
comprehensible, impossible music which has no future. 
What chiefly interests me in Lohengrin at present is the 
orchestration. In view of the work which lies before me, 
I want to study this score very closely, and decide whether 
to adopt some of his methods of instrumentation. His 
mastery is extraordinary, but, for reasons which would 
necessitate technical explanations, I have not borrowed 
anything from him. Wagner's orchestration is too sym- 
phonic, too overloaded and heavy for vocal music. The 
older I grow, the more convinced I am that symphony and 
opera are in every respect at the opposite poles of music. 
Therefore the study of Lohengrin will not lead me to 
change my style, although it has been interesting and of 
negative value." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May *]th (igth\ 1879. 

"Yesterday I was talking to Marcel about the comple- 
tion of the Catholic chapel, started long ago, but inter- 
rupted by order of the Government. Now the necessary 
permission has been obtained, and the priest has funds for 
the work; but another difficulty exists which you alone 
can overcome. One of your offices just touches the wall 
of the church, and could easily be transported to another 
spot. Last year I went into the chapel in which the ser- 
vice is held, and I must honestly say that I was sorry to 
see this obvious proof of Catholic persecution ... it is 
not large enough to hold a tenth part of the congregation. 
I am an energetic champion of religious freedom. Marcel 
tells me the priest did not like to trouble you with his 
requests, therefore I am animated with a desire to come to 
his assistance. I take the liberty of telling you that the 
Catholics of Brailov are hoping for your kind permission 
to have your building removed. If this should prove to be 


impossible, at least forgive me, dear friend, for my untimely 
interference on their behalf." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, May gth (2\st\ 1879. 

" I have just been in the church attached to the monas- 
tery. There were many people, both in the church and in 
the courtyard of the building. I heard the blind ' lyre 
singer.' He calls himself ' lyre singer ' on account of the 
instrument with which he accompanies himself, which, 
however, has nothing in common with the lyre of anti- 
quity. It is curious that in Little Russia every blind 
beggar sings exactly the same tune with the same refrain. 
I have used part of this refrain in my Pianoforte Concerto. 

" At the present moment I am writing on the balcony. 
Before me is the bunch of lilies of the valley from Sima- 
kov. I am never tired of looking at these enchanting 
creations of nature." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, May 2gth (June ioth\ 1879. 

"To-day I finished the first act of my opera (The Maid 
of Orleans). It has grown into a somewhat bulky score. 
What a delight to look through a newly finished score ! 
To a musician a score means something more than a col- 
lection of all kinds of notes and pauses. It is a complete 
picture, in which the central figures stand out clearly from 
the accessories and the background. 

" To me every orchestral score is not merely a foretaste 
of oral delight, but also a joy to look upon. For this 
reason I am painfully particular about my scores, and 
cannot bear corrections, erasures, or blots." 1 

1 In later years Tchaikovsky was less particular, and his scores became 
less neat. 


To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, June i$th (25^), 1879. 

" Early this morning I had a telegram from Jurgenson, 
to say he had won his case against Bachmetiev, the Director 
of the Imperial Chapel. I think I told you that early last 
year my Liturgy (of St. John Chrysostom) was confiscated 
from Jurgenson's by order of Bachmetiev. . . . Only those 
works which have been recognised by the Chapel can be 
publicly sold or performed. This is the reason why, until 
now, no Russian musicians have written Church music. 
After the confiscation of my composition, Jurgenson 
brought an action for damages against Bachmetiev, and 
has won his case. . . . This does not matter so much for 
my Liturgy, as for the principle involved. 

" Twenty-five years ago to-day my mother died. It was 
the first profound sorrow of my life. Her death had a 
great influence on the fate of myself and our entire family. 
She was carried off by cholera, quite unexpectedly, in the 
prime of life. Every moment of that terrible day is 
still as clear in my remembrances as though it had happened 

On June 2Oth Tchaikovsky wrote to N. F. von Meek 
that he had received three very agreeable letters from 
abroad. In one Colonne expressed his respect in the 
kindliest manner, and assured Tchaikovsky that, in spite of 
the cold reception of The Tempest, his name should figure 
again in the programmes of the Chatelet. A second com- 
munication came from the 'cellist Fitzenhagen (professor 
at the Moscow Conservatoire), telling him of the impres- 
sion he had created with the "Variations on a Rococo 
theme " at the Wiesbaden Festival. Liszt remarked on this 
occasion, " At last here is music again/' The third letter 
from Hans von Biilow announced the great success of 
Tchaikovsky's first Pianoforte Concerto at the same 
festival. Von Biilow had already played it with even 
greater success in London. 


Almost on the same day Tchaikovsky also heard the 
good news that his Liturgy had been performed in the 
University Church at Kiev. 


On August 7th Tchaikovsky finished the third act of 
The Maid of Orleans and, suffering from physical and 
nervous exhaustion, left Kamenka for Simaki, 1 as Nadejda 
von Meek was occupying her house at Brailov. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" I am enchanted. I could not imagine more beautiful 
surroundings. The garden in which I have just been 
walking with Pakhulsky has surpassed all my expecta- 
tions. The house is a splendid retreat ! If you only 
realised how much I am in need just now of all the com- 
forts which I get as your guest in this delightful spot ! 

" I intend to finish the orchestration of the last act of 
my opera while I am here, and shall begin work to- 
morrow. I shall get this heavy burden off my shoulders, 
and then I can draw breath and enjoy the incomparable 
sensation of having completed a long work." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" SIMAKI, August ^th (2u/) f 1879. 

" I hasten to send you my first impressions of this place. 
A very, very old house, a shady garden with ancient oaks 
and lime trees ; it is very secluded, but therein lies its 
charm. At the end of the garden flows a stream. From 
the verandah there is a fine view over the village and the 
forests. The absolute quiet and comfort of the place 
exactly suit my taste and requirements. I have at my 
disposal an old manservant called Leon, a cook whom I 

1 A smaller country house belonging to Nadejda von Meek in the vicinity 
of Brailov. 


never see, and a coachman with a phaeton and four horses. 
I could gladly dispense with the last, since it necessitates 
my driving occasionally, while in reality I prefer to walk. 
The proximity of Nadejda Filaretovna troubles me some- 
what, although it is really folly. I know my seclusion will 
not be disturbed. I am so accustomed to regard her as a 
kind of remote and invisible genius that the consciousness 
of her mortal presence in my neighbourhood is rather dis- 
concerting. Yesterday I met Pakhulsky, who spent part 
of the evening with me. But I told him plainly that I 
wanted to be left quite alone for a few days." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"August nth (23^), 1879. 

" Pakhulsky told me that next time he came he was 
to bring Milochka 1 with him. I am very fond of Milo- 
chka ; it is a pleasure to look at the photograph of her 
charming face. I am sure she is a dear, sweet, sympathetic 
child. I love children, and could only say * yes ' to such a 
proposal. But what I could not say to Pakhulsky I can 
say to you. 

" Forgive me, dear friend, and make fun of my mania if 
you like but I am not going to invite Milochka here, for 
this reason : my relations towards you as they exist at 
present are my chief happiness, and of the greatest im- 
portance to my well-being. I do not want them altered 
by a hair's breadth. The whole charm and poetry of our 
friendship lies in your being so near and so dear to me, 
while at the same time I do not know you at all in the 
ordinary sense of the word. This condition of things must 
extend to your nearest belongings. I will love Milochka 
as I have hitherto loved you. If she appeared before me 
le charme serait rompu ! 

" Every member of your family is dear to me particu- 
larly Milochka yet for God's sake let everything remain 
as it has been. What could I say if she asked me why I 
never went to see her mother? I should have to open our 
acquaintance with a lie. This would be a grief to me, 

1 Frau von Meck's youngest daughter. 


even though it were a trifling falsehood. Pardon my 
frankness, dear and noble friend. . . . 

"If you have Beethoven's Sonatas, be so kind as to send 
them to me." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"SIMAKI, August \%th (30^), 1879. 

"Time slips away unobserved. Yesterday something 
very painful happened. About four o'clock in the after- 
noon I was walking in the woods, feeling sure I should not 
meet Nadejda Filaretovna, because it was her dinner-hour. 
It chanced, however, that I went out a little earlier, and 
she was dining somewhat later, so we ran against each 
other quite by chance. It was an awkward predicament. 
Although we were only face to face for a moment, I felt 
horribly confused. However, I raised my hat politely. 
She seemed to lose her head entirely and did not know 
what to do. She was in one carriage with Milochka, and 
the whole family followed in two others. I wandered into 
the forest in search of mushrooms, and when I returned to 
the little table where tea was prepared for me, I found my 
letters and newspapers awaiting me. It appears she sent 
a man on horseback to look for me, so that I might get my 
post at tea-time." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" SIMAKI, August 2^th (September %th\ 1879. 

" Now I can almost say finished 7 I have worked at The 
Maid of Orleans from the end of November (Florence) to 
the end of August (Simaki), just nine months. It is 
remarkable that I began and finished this opera as the 
guest of my dear friend." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" August $\st (September \2tfi), 1879. 

" Do you not like such grey days as to-day ? I love 
them. The beginning of autumn can only be compared to 
spring as regards beauty. It seems to me September, 
with its tender, melancholy colouring, has a special power 
to fill me with calm and happy feelings. Around Simaki 
there are many delightful spots which I like best to fre- 


quent at sunset, or on sunless days like to-day. For 
instance, if you turn to the right, past the kitchen garden, 
and take the lower path (parallel to the village) by the 
fen where the reeds grow. I am very fond of that spot. 
But by day the sun spoils the picturesque view of the 

" At evening, too, or on a cloudy day, it is delightful to 
sit on some high-lying spot, and look over the old willows, 
or poplars, across to the village, with its modest church 
(what a charm is given to every rural landscape by these 
churches), and far away to the distant forests. I often 
spend an hour in this way. . . ." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"August 3i5/ (September i2th), 1879. 

" I have just received a telegram from Anatol : ' Have 
just been dismissed in consequence of an unpleasantness 
in my department. Most anxious to speak to you.' I am 
starting for Petersburg at once. A great fear of the future 
possesses me. In spite of the many delightful moments 
spent here, I have had a continual foreboding of something 
unlucky, and always about Toly." 



To P. f. Jurgenson. 

(Early in September?) 

" You will be very much astonished to hear of my being 
in Petersburg. I was summoned by a telegram from my 
brother Anatol, announcing that in consequence of some 
unpleasantness he had to resign his position in the Govern- 
ment service. ... I think the matter can be so arranged 
that he can keep his place. . . . 

" I do not know how long I shall stay here. It depends 
upon the progress of my brother's affairs. O detested 
Petersburg ! " 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"PETERSBURG, September \$th (25^), 1879. 

" I received your letter yesterday, dear friend. How I 
envied you when I read your account of the lovely autumn 
weather you were enjoying ! The weather is not bad here, 
but what is the use of it to me ? 

" I often go to the opera, but I do not enjoy it much. 
The impossibility of escaping from innumerable acquain- 
tances bores me dreadfully. No matter where I hide 
myself, there are always idle people who poison my 
pleasure in the music by their kind attentions. They will 
worry me with the usual commonplace questions : * How 
are you ? ' ' What are you composing now ? ' etc. But the 
invitations are the most intolerable. It requires so much 
courage to refuse them. 

" In one of your letters you asked me to tell you the 
whole method of procedure in order to get an opera 
accepted for performance. One has to send the score 
and pianoforte arrangement, with a written request for its 
performance, to the Direction of the Imperial Opera 
House. Then, in order to be successful, one must set in 
motion the whole machinery of solicitation and entreaty. 
This is just what I do not understand. My first two operas 
were performed, thanks to the assistance of the Grand 
Duke Constantine Nicholaevich who likes my music. 
How things will go this time I cannot say. I shall 
impress upon Jurgenson to do all that is necessary. Two 
days ago I was talking to Napravnik (one of the worthiest 
members of the musical world), who takes a lively interest 
in the fate of my opera. He told me it could not be 
performed this season, but advised me to send in the score 
as soon as possible." 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 
"Moscow, September 20//& (October 2nd), 1879. 
" Forgive me for not having written before to-day. 
Yesterday it was impossible. . . . Rubinstein and Jurgen- 
son soon put in an appearance, and compelled me to leave 
the tea, upon which I had just started, and go out to 


breakfast with them. O Moscow ! Scarcely has one 
set foot in it before one must needs begin to drink ! At 
five o'clock I was invited to dinner at the Jurgensons', 
where we began again. I cannot tell you how strange 
and repugnant to me is this Moscow atmosphere of 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"CRANKING, September 2$th (October -]th\ 1879. 

" I left Moscow on the 22nd. No sooner did the train 
begin to move, and I saw the outskirts of the town, than 
the black curtain, which had hung before my eyes during 
the whole of my time in the two capitals, suddenly vanished. 
I was once more free and happy. 

" Here I found both your letters. I cannot tell you how 
glad I was to read your dear words. It was a surprise to 
hear our symphony was at last published, for the distracted 
Jurgenson forgot to mention this. . . . 

" I owe you everything : my life, the possibility of going 
forward to distant goals, freedom, and that complete happi- 
ness which formerly I believed to be unattainable. 

" I read your letters with such a sense of eternal grati- 
tude and affection that I cannot put it into words. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, October $th (i*]th\ 1879. 

" At the present moment I do not know why I am 
going through an intense Italian craze. I feel so delighted, 
so happy, at the mere thought that before long I, too, shall 
be in Italy. Naples, Pompeii, Vesuvius . . . enchanting, 
lovely ! 

" I found the proofs of the Suite here. In three days I 
corrected and sent them back, so that I can now take a 
holiday read, walk, play, dream to my heart's desire. 
For how long ? I do not know. At any rate, I will not 
undertake any work during my first days in Naples. Do 
you not think that in the land of lazzarone one must be 
lazy too ? " 

2 A 


To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

" KAMENKA, October ^th (\<$th\ 1879. 

" No news. I feel very well, only a little misanthropical 
now and then. To-day there are visitors. When there 
are none I feel quite at ease. We all sit and sew. I have 
hemmed and marked a pocket-handkerchief." * 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, October gf/i (2ist), 1879. 

" How can I thank you for the trouble you have taken 
about our symphony ? I am delighted Colonne will play 
it. At the same time there is no doubt it will have no 
success whatever with the public. Perhaps it might rouse 
a spark of sympathy in the hearts of ten or twelve people 
and that would be a great step in advance. . . . Only 
one thing troubles me. Does Colonne really want to be 
paid for doing the work ? It would gratify me to know 
that his readiness to perform the symphony was not based 
upon pecuniary considerations." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, October \2th (24^), 1879. 

" The last few days I have felt a secret dissatisfaction 
with myself, which has degenerated into boredom. I 
realised that I wanted work and began to occupy myself. 
The boredom immediately vanished and I felt relieved. I 
have begun a pianoforte concerto and intend to work at it 
without haste and over-fatigue. 

" Have you read V. Soloviev's philosophical articles ? 
They are admirably written ; very popular in form, so that 
they do not overstep the intelligence of the ordinary reader, 
yet very clever. I do not know to what conclusions the 
writer will eventually come. In the last number he proves 
very effectively the untenableness of positivism, which 
denies metaphysics, yet cannot get along without philo- 
sophy. Soloviev speaks in a very striking way of the 

1 This form of occupation, like sport, only amused Tchaikovsky for a very 
short time. 


delusion of the materialists who, because they deny meta- 
physics, believe they are only dealing with what actually 
exists, that is, with the material ; whereas the material has 
no objective existence, and is only a phenomenon, the 
result of the activity of our sense and intellect. I express 
his ideas very indifferently, but I advise you to read this 
book for yourself. 

" Yesterday I heard from Anatol about the performance 
of Vakoula the Smith, which took place the previous week. 
The theatre was full, but the public cool, just as on former 
occasions. Anatol attributes this to the indifferent perfor- 
mance. But I can see with startling clearness that this 
attitude of reserve is the outcome of my own stupid mis- 
takes. I am glad to know that The Maid of Orleans is 
free from the faults of my earlier pseudo-opera style, in 
which I weaned my listeners with a superfluity of details, 
and made my harmony too complicated, so that there was 
no moderation in my orchestral effects. Besides which, I 
gave the audience no repose. I set too many heavy dishes 
before them. Opera style should be broad, simple, and 
decorative. Vakoula is not in true opera style, but is far 
more like symphonic or chamber music. It is only sur- 
prising that it has not proved a complete failure. It is 
possible that it may find favour with the public in course 
of time. I place it in the front rank of my works, although 
I see all its defects. It was a labour of love, an enjoyment, 
like Oniegin, the Fourth Symphony, and the Second 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, October \$th (27^), 1879. 

" Only a month and I shall be at Naples ! I look for- 
ward to this as a child to his birthday, and the presents it 
will bring. Meanwhile things are going well with me. 
My latest musical creation begins to grow and display 
more characteristic features. I work with greater pleasure 
and try to curb my habitual haste, which has often been 
injurious to my work." 

On October 2ist Nicholas Rubinstein played Tchaikov- 
sky's Pianoforte Sonata at a concert of the Musical Society 


in Moscow. The success was so great that the famous 
pianist repeated it at his own concert in the course of the 
same season. 

On November nth the composer's First Suite had a 
decided success, judging by the newspapers. The short 
number which Tchaikovsky once thought of cutting out 
of the work was encored. 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 

"BERLIN, November nth (z^rd), 1879. 

" MY DEAR ANATOL, I have had an ideal journey. 
I arrived in Berlin early this morning. After breakfast I 
went to see Kotek. The good man seemed wild with 
delight at seeing me again, and even I was glad. But at 
the end of two hours of musical tittle-tattle I was tired, 
and thankful he had to attend a rehearsal. Strange ! The 
longer I live, the less I care for the society of my fellow- 
creatures. There is no doubt that I am fond of Kotek, 
but his chatter wearies me more than the severest physical 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, November i8//fc (30^), 1879. 

" I know the Variations by Rimsky-Korsakov & Co. 1 
very well. The work is original in its way and shows 
some remarkable talent for harmony in its authors. At 
the same time I do not care for it. It is too heavy and 
spun-out for a joke, and the everlasting repetition of the 
theme is clumsy. As a work of art it is a mere nonentity. 
It is not surprising that a few clever men should have 
amused themselves by inventing all kinds of variations 
upon a commonplace theme ; the surprising thing is their 
having published them. Only amateurs can suppose that 
every piquant harmony is worthy to be given to the public. 
Liszt, the old Jesuit, speaks in terms of exaggerated praise 
of every work which is submitted to his inspection. He is 

1 " Paraphrases," twenty-four variations and fourteen pieces for piano on 
a popular theme, by Borodin, Cui, Liadov, and Rimsky-Korsakov. 


at heart a good man, one of the very few great artists who 
have never known envy (Wagner and in some measure 
Anton Rubinstein owe their success to him ; he also did 
much for Berlioz) ; but he is too much of a Jesuit to be 
frank and sincere." 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"PARIS, November igth (December ist\ 1879. 

"DEAR FRIEND, What happiness to get right away 
from one's own country! Not until I had passed the 
frontiers, did I breathe freely and feel at ease. On the 
journey I came across Joseph Wieniawsky, who was in 
the same corridor train. I immediately told him I was 
not alone, but travelling with a lady, upon which he winked 
at me slyly, as much as to say, 'Of course, we know, 
shocking dog ! ' 

" At present I want to work slowly at my Concerto ; 
later I mean to look through my old works, especially the 
Second Symphony, which I intend to revise thoroughly." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, November 2\st (December $rd\ 1879. 

" To-day, being a Saint's Day, Alexis went to church, 
and told me the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevich, with 
all his suite in full uniform, had attended the service. I 
could not account for this until I took up the Gaulois at 
breakfast, and read of an attempt made in Moscow on the 
Tsar's life. . . . The Emperor escaped unharmed. 

" I do not believe, dear friend, that we are in immediate 
danger of a war with Prussia. Such a war, although in- 
evitable, is improbable during the lives of the present 
emperors. How can it be possible to think of war, when 
such horrors are taking place in our midst? ... I think 
the Tsar would do well to assemble representatives through- 
out all Russia, and take counsel with them how to prevent 
the recurrence of such terrible actions on the part of mad 
revolutionaries. So long as all of us the Russian citizens 
are not called to take part in the government of the 
country, there is no hope of a better future." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, November 26th (December 8M), 1879. 
" I am not altogether at one with you as regards Cui. 
I do not recognise in him any great creative power, 
although his music has a certain elegance, agreeable har- 
monies, and shows good taste, in which he is distinguished 
from the other members of ' the band,' especially Mous- 
sorgsky. By nature Cui is more drawn towards light and 
piquantly rhythmic French music ; but the demands of 
* the band ' which he has joined compel him to do violence 
to his natural gifts and to follow those paths of would-be 
original harmony which do not suit him. Cui is now 
forty-four years of age and has only composed two operas 
and two or three dozen songs. He was engaged for ten 
years upon his opera Ratcliff. It is evident that the 
work was composed piecemeal, hence the lack of any unity 
of style." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, November 2>jth (December gtti), 1879. 

" Now I will answer your question. My Voyevode is un- 
doubtedly a very poor opera. I do not speak of the music 
only, but of all that goes to the making of a good opera. 
The subject is lacking in dramatic interest and movement, 
and the work was written hastily and carelessly. I wrote 
music to the words without troubling to consider the 
difference between operatic and symphonic style. In com- 
posing an opera the stage should be the musician's first 
thought, he must not abuse the confidence of the theatre- 
goer who comes to see as well as to hear. Finally, the style 
of music written for. the stage should be the same as the 
decorative style in painting, clear, simple, and highly 
coloured. A picture by Meissonier would lose half its 
charm if exhibited on the stage; and subtle, delicately 
harmonised music would be equally inappropriate, since 
the public demands sharply defined melodies on a back- 
ground of subdued harmony. In my Voyevode I have 
been chiefly concerned with filigree work, and have for- 
gotten the requirements of the stage. 

"The stage often paralyses a composer's inspiration, that 


is why symphonic and chamber music are so far superior 
to opera. A symphony or sonata imposes no limitations, 
but in opera, the first necessity is to speak the musical 
language of the great public. . . . The final defect of The 
Voyevode lies in the heaviness of its orchestration, which 
overpowers the soloists. These are all the faults of inex- 
perience ; we must leave a whole series of failures behind 
us before we can attain to perfection. This is the reason 
why I am not ashamed of my first opera. It has taught 
me useful lessons. And you see, dear friend, how strenu- 
ously I have endeavoured to correct my errors. Even 
Undine (the opera I burnt), The Oprichnik, and Vakoula 
are not what they should be. I find this branch of art 
very difficult ! I think The Maid of Orleans at last fulfils 
every requirement, but perhaps I deceive myself. If it is 
so, if it turns out that I have failed to grasp the true opera 
style, even in this work, then I shall be convinced of the 
justice of the opinion that I am by nature only a 
symphonic composer and should not attempt dramatic 
music. In that case, I shall abandon all attempts at 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, December 1879. 

" I have read the proclamation you mention. It is im- 
possible to conceive anything more astounding and cynical. 
How will such revolutionary proceedings forward the re- 
forms with which, sooner or later, the Tsar will crown his 
reign ? That which the Socialists are doing in the name of 
Russia is foolish and insolent. But equally false is their 
pretence of readiness to shake hands with all parties and 
to leave the Emperor in peace as soon as he summons 
a Parliament. This is not what they really aim at, for they 
mean to go further to a socialist-republic, or to anarchy. 
But no one will swallow this bait. Even were a constitu- 
tion granted to Russia in the remote future, the first act 
of the Zemstvo should be extermination of this band 
of murderers who hope to become the leaders of the 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, December $rd (15^), 1879. 

" The sketch of my Concerto is finished and I am very 
pleased with it, especially with the Andante. Now I shall 
take in hand the revision of my Second Symphony, of 
which only the last movement can be left intact. I pub- 
lished this work through Bessel in 1872, as a return for 
the trouble he took over the performance of The Oprichnik. 
. . . For seven years he has led me a dance over the 
engraving of the score always putting me off with the 
assurance that it would soon be ready. I was sometimes 
furious with him, but his lack of conscience has proved 
itself a blessing in disguise ! ... If I succeed in working 
steadily in Rome, I shall make a good work out of my 
immature, mediocre symphony." 


After spending a few days in Turin, Tchaikovsky 
reached Rome on December 8th (2Oth), 1879. From 
thence he wrote, on the I2th (24th), to Frau von Meek : 

"Yesterday we made a pilgrimage to S. Pietro in 
Montorio. Probably you know the place, therefore I need 
not describe the beauty of the view from the terrace below 
the church. To-day I visited San Giovanni in Laterano 
and carried away some profound artistic impressions. I 
also went to Scala Santa. High Mass was being celebrated 
in the church. The choir sang a Mass a capella and also 
with the organ. Quite modern music, utterly unsuitable 
in church, but beautifully sung. What voices there are in 
Italy ! The tenor gave a solo, in the style of a wretched 
operatic aria, in such a magnificent voice that I was quite 
carried away. But the Mass itself lacks that solemn, 
poetical atmosphere with which our liturgy is surrounded." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, December itf/i (25^), 1879. 

"It is Christmas here to-day. We went to Mass at 
St. Peter's. What a colossal edifice this cathedral ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, December \$th (27^), 1879. 

" Yesterday we went up Monte Testaccio, with its lovely 
view of Rome and the Campagna. From there we visited 
S. Paolo Fuori le Mura, a basilica of huge proportions and 
vast wealth. To-day I am going for the first time to * do ' 
the Forum thoroughly. This has a three-fold interest for 
me because I am just reading Ampere's Histoire remained 
Rome, in which all that has taken place in this building is 
minutely described. 

" I have a very good piano now. I got a few volumes 
of Bach's works from Ricordi, and play a number of them, 
alone, or four-handed, with my brother Modeste. But 
work will not come back to me. Rome and Roman life 
are too characteristic, too exciting and full of variety, to 
permit of my sticking to my writing-table. However, I 
hope the power of work will gradually return. Yesterday 
I heard a charming popular song, of which I shall certainly 
make use some future day." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 

"ROME, December igth (31^), 1879. 

"DEAR FRIEND, . . . Nicholas Rubinstein's opinion that 
my Suite is so difficult that it is impossible, has surprised 
and annoyed me very much. Either Rubinstein is mis- 
taken, or I must give up composing ; one or the other. 
Why, it is my chief anxiety to write more easily and 
simply as time goes on, and the more I try the worse 
I succeed ! It is dreadful ! 

" I asked Taneiev to write and tell me what actually 
constituted these terrible difficulties. I feel a little hurt 
that none of my friends telegraphed to me after the 
performance. I am forgotten. The one interest which 


binds me to life is centred in my compositions. Every 
first performance marks an epoch for me. v Can no one 
realise that it would have been a joy to receive a few 
words of appreciation, by which I should have known that 
my new work had been performed and had given pleasure 
to my friends ? 

" I do not understand what you say about the ' Marche 
Miniature.' We never cut it out. The March was to be 
kept, but as it was not suitable as No. 5 it was to be 
published at the end of the Suite. . . . For God's sake 
answer my letters quicker. Your communication has 
upset my nerves and I feel as ill as a dog." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
ROME, December 22nd (January $rd, 1880), 1879. 

" To-day I went to the Capitol with Modeste. We spent 
an hour and a half in the Hall of the Emperors. The busts 
are highly characteristic ! What a revolting, sensual, 
animal face Nero has ! How sympathetic is Marcus Aure- 
lius ! How fine the old Agrippina ! How repulsive Cara- 
calla ! Some of these countenances in no way bear out 
one's idea of the originals. For instance, Julius Caesar 
altogether lacks power and greatness ; he looks like a 
Russian Councillor of State. And Trajan? Who could 
guess from his narrow forehead, prominent chin, and com- 
monplace expression, that the original of the portrait was 
a great man ? . . ." 

A few days later, Tchaikovsky recounted to Nadejda 
von Meek his impressions of the treasures of the Vati- 
can : 

"The frescoes of Michel Angelo now appear less incom- 
prehensible to me, although I do not share Modeste's 
enthusiasm for them. His athletic, muscular figures, and 
the gloomy vastness of his pictures, are gradually becom- 
ing more intelligible. His art now interests and overcomes 
me, but it does not delight me, or touch my heart. Raphael 
is still my favourite the Mozart of painters. Guercino's 
pictures please me very much, some of his Madonnas are so 


angelically beautiful, they fill me with silent ecstasy. How- 
ever, I must confess that I am not gifted by nature with a 
fine appreciation of the plastic arts, for very few pictures 
make an impression upon me. ... To study all the art treas- 
ures of Rome conscientiously would need a whole lifetime. 
To-day I discovered once more how important it is to look 
long and carefully at a picture. I sat before Raphael's 
'Annunciation/ and at first I did not see much in the 
picture, but the longer I looked the more profoundly 
was I penetrated with its beauty as a whole, and the 
wonder of its details. Alas ! I had only just begun to 
really enjoy the work, when Modeste came to tell me it 
was three o'clock and time to go on to the Sistine Chapel. 
... I do not think I could live long in Rome. There are 
too many interests ; it leaves no time for reflection, no 
time to deepen one's own nature. I should prefer Florence 
as a permanent place of residence ; it is quieter, more 
peaceful. Rome is richer and grander ; Florence more 

" I agree with Goethe's characteristic opinion of Rome 

' It would be a fine thing to spend a few centuries there in 
Pythagorean silence.' " 

5. 7. Taneiev to Tchaikovsky. 

" Moscow. 

" N. Rubinstein has pointed out to me all those parts in 
the score of your Suite which he considers awkward. 

" The difficulties are chiefly centred in the wind instru- 
ments, especially in the wood-wind. They are as follows : 

" (i) Too few pauses ; the wood-wind have to play for too 
long at a time without opportunities for breathing. In 
those places where you have doubled the strings (as in the 
Fugue) it does not matter so much, they can make a slight 
break without its being observable. But it is very different 
when they are playing alone. For instance, in the newly 
added movement there is a part for three flutes which 
have to play triplets for twenty-two bars, without a break. 

" (2) Difficult passages : these occur very often in the 
wood-wind and demand virtuosi to execute them properly. 
In the Andante the passages leading to the second theme 
are extremely difficult (where oboe and clarinet, and the 


second time flute and clarinet, have triplets of semi-quavers). 
This part went very badly at the rehearsals, and even at 
the concert, although the musicians had practised their 
parts at home. It offers such difficulties that it is im- 
possible to render it with the expression marks indicated, 
for the musicians have enough to do to get their right note 
(the double flat for clarinet is particularly awkward). 

"(3) The compass of all the wood-wind instruments is 
too extended. The first bassoon usually plays in the tenor 
register, while the second takes the lower notes. Not 
only the musicians, but also their instruments, have got 
accustomed to this ; the lower notes of the first bassoon 
are not quite in tune ; the same thing applies to the 
upper notes of the second bassoon. But your Suite opens 
with a unison passage for both fagotti, which employs 
almost the entire range of these instruments : from 


In the march the oboes have the following notes : 

which Z. played at the first rehearsal as : 

When Rubinstein asked him why he did not play the 
notes as they were written, he replied that he could do so, 
but it would be very bad for his lips, because they lay too 
high. The French oboe players, he continued, could bring 
out these high notes better, because they had different and 
finer mouthpieces ; but with these mouthpieces the middle 
and lower notes suffered. 

"(4) Difficult rhythms which make the execution irregular. 
The absence, too, of what the Germans call " Anhaltspunkt" 


(punctuation) the absence of notes on the strong beats 
of the bar. Take this rhythm in the Scherzo for instance : 

the last notes come on the second crotchet, and the pause 
on the third beat. In consequence, it is very difficult to 
play these notes equally, they always sound a little one 
on the top of the other. The same with the following 
passage : 

Altogether the Scherzo requires enormous virtuosity, which 
most members of the orchestra do not possess. 

"Apparently some passages do not sound as you thought 
they would. At the beginning of the Scherzo (where the 
wood -wind enters) there is a modulation to Bt> major 
through the dominant chord on . 

^ -f- 

The superfluity of chromatic harmonies, as well as the 
difficulty of executing clearly all that is written for the 
wind, causes these passages to sound unintelligible and to 
have the effect of a series of wrong notes. . . ." 

To S. I. Taneiev. 

" ROME, January tfh (i6th), 1880. 

"Nicholas Rubinstein's explanation is not at all satis- 
factory. From all he says, I can plainly see that he was 


out of temper and visited it upon the Suite. No one will 
induce me to believe this passage 

is difficult to play on the oboe or clarinet, or that the flutes 
cannot play twenty-two bars of triplets in a rapid tempo. 
They could easily manage to play such a passage for 220 
bars. It would be very innocent to imagine that this must 
be done in one breath. They can breathe every time. 
I play the flute a little myself and am certain of it. Diffi- 
culty is a relative matter : for a beginner it would not only 
be difficult, but impossible, but for an averagely good 
orchestral player it is not hard. I do not lay myself out 
to write easy things ; I know my instrumentation is almost 
always rather difficult. But you must admit that compared 
with Francesca, or the Fourth Symphony, the Suite is child's 
play. Altogether Rubinstein's criticisms are such that 
were they accurate I should have to lay down my pen 
for ever. What? For ten years I have taught instru- 
mentation at the Conservatoire (not remarkably well 
perhaps, but without compromising myself), and two years 
later remarks are made to me which could only be ad- 
dressed to a very backward pupil ! One of two things : 
either I never understood anything about the orchestra, or 
this criticism of my Suite is on a par with N. R.'s remarks 
upon my Pianoforte Concerto in 1875: that it was im- 
practicable. What was impossible in 1875 was proved 
quite possible in 1878. 

" I explain the whole affair thus : the oboist Herr Z. was 
in a bad temper which not infrequently happens with 
him and this infected Rubinstein. I like the idea that 
the high notes are ruination to Herr Z.'s lips ! ! ! It is 
a thousand pities these precious lips, from which Frau Z. 
has stolen so many kisses, should be spoilt for ever by the 
E in alt. But this will not hinder me from injuring these 
sacred lips by writing high notes notes moreover that 
every oboist can easily play, even without a French mouth- 
piece ! " 



To N. F. von Meek. 

" ROME, January 2nd (14^), 1880. 

" When I look back upon the year that has flown, I feel 
I must sing a hymn of thanksgiving to fate which has 
brought me so many beautiful days in Russia and abroad. 
I can say that throughout the whole year I have led a 
calm and cheerful life, and have been happy, so far as 
happiness is possible." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 

" ROME, January \\th (23^2?), 1880. 

" My health is bad, and my mental condition not very 
good. I have had sad news from Petersburg : my sister is 
ill and also her daughter. Yesterday I heard of my 
father's death. He was eighty-five, so this news did not 
altogether take me by surprise. But he was such a 
wonderful, angelic old soul. I loved him so much, it is 
a bitter grief to feel I shall never see him again." 

On hearing this news, Tchaikovsky burst into tears. 
Afterwards he became quiet and resigned. But the peace- 
ful end of this venerable old man could not make a great 
gap in the busy life of his son, to whom, notwithstanding, 
he had been very dear. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

11 ROME, January i2th (24^), 1880. 

" This morning I received an amiable letter from 
Colonne, telling me my symphony 1 would be given to- 
morrow at the Chatelet. This has vexed me. If he had 
written a day earlier, I might have reached Paris in time. 
But Colonne is not to blame because, in order to preserve 

1 No. 4, dedicated to N. F. von Meek. 


my incognito, I told him I could not be present at the 
performance of my symphony, on account of my health. 

" How am I to thank you for this kindness, dear friend ? 
I know the symphony will not have any success, but it 
will interest many people, and this is very important for 
the propaganda of my works." 

Although Colonne sent a telegram of congratulation 
immediately after the concert, the letter which followed 
announced, in the politest manner, the partial failure of the 
symphony. La Gazette Musicale says the first and last 
movements were received with " icy coldness," and the 
public only showed enthusiasm for the Scherzo, and por- 
tions of the Andante. 

Almost simultaneously with the performance of the 
Fourth Symphony in Paris, Tchaikovsky's Quartet No. 3, 
Op. 30, and the Serenade for violin and pianoforte were 
given by the Societe de S. Cecile. All the newspapers 
were unanimously agreed as to the success of these works. 

From this time Tchaikovsky's works began to make 
their way abroad. From New York, Leopold Damrosch 
sent him tidings of the great success of his First Suite; 
while Jurgenson wrote to tell him of the triumph of his 
Pianoforte Concerto in B t> minor, which had been played 
twice by Billow and once by Friedenthal in Berlin, by 
Breitner in Buda-Pesth, and by Rummel in New York. 

To N. F. von Heck. 

" ROUE, January i6th (28^), 1880. 

" What a superb work is Michel Angelo's 'Moses'! It is 
indeed conceived and executed by a genius of the highest 
order. It is said the work has some defects. This reminds 
me of old F6tis, who was always on the look-out for errors 
in Beethoven's works, and once boasted in triumph of 
having discovered in the Eroica symphony an inversion 
which was not in good taste. 

" Do you not think Beethoven and Michel Angelo are 
allied by nature ? " 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"February $th (17^), 1880. 

"Just now we are at the very height of the Carnival. 
At first, as I have told you, this wild folly did not suit me 
at all, but now I am growing used to it. Of course the 
character of the festival here is conditioned by climate and 
custom. Probably if a Roman was set down among us in 
our Carnival week, the crowd of tipsy people swinging 
and toboganning would seem to him even more barbarous! 

" I am working at the sketch of an Italian Fantasia based 
upon folksongs. Thanks to the charming themes, some 
of which I have taken from collections and some of which 
I have heard in the streets, this work will be effective." 

To N. F. von Heck. 

"February tfh (i6M), 1880. 

"Yesterday we made the most of glorious weather and 
went to Tivoli. It is the loveliest spot I ever beheld. As 
soon as we arrived we went to lunch at the Albergo della 
Sybilla. Our table was near the edge of a ravine, where 
a waterfall splashed in the depths below ; on all sides the 
steep banks and rocks were covered with pines and olive 
trees. The sun was hot as in June. After breakfast we 
took a long walk and visited the celebrated Villa d'Este, 
where Liszt spends three months every year. It is mag- 
nificent, and from the park there is a fine view over the 

" To-day we went to the gallery of the Palazzo Borghese, 
in which there are some masterpieces. I was most im- 
pressed by Correggio's superb picture ' Danae.' l 

" Dear friend, leading such a life, amid all these beautiful 
impressions of nature and art, ought not a man to be 
happy ? And yet a worm continually gnaws in secret at 
my heart. I sleep badly, and do not feel that courage and 
freshness which I might expect under the present con- 
ditions. Only for a moment can I conquer my mental 
depression. My God ! What an incomprehensible and 

1 Removed to the Villa Borghese in 1891. 
2 F, 


complicated machine the human organism is ! We shall 
never solve the various phenomena of our spiritual and 
material existence. And how can we draw the line between 
the intellectual and physiological phenomena of our life? 
At times it seems to me as though I suffered from a 
mysterious, but purely physical, malady which influences 
my mental phases. Lately I have thought my heart was 
out of order ; but then I remembered that last summer the 
doctor who examined it declared my heart to be absolutely 
sound. So I must lay the blame on my nerves but what 
are nerves ? Why, on one and the same day, without any 
apparent reason, do they act quite normally for a time, 
and then lose their elasticity and energy, and leave one 
incapable of work and insensible to artistic impressions? 
These are riddles. 

"There is a lovely bunch of violets in front of me. 
There are quantities here. Spring is coming in to her own." 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 

"ROME, February $th (i7//&), 1880. 

"Good Lord, what a stupid idea to go and print that 
score!!! 1 It is not profitable, is no use to anyone, nor satis- 
factory in any respect simply absurd. The moral is : 
when you want to prepare a little surprise for me, ask my 
advice first. I assure you, in spite of my well-known naivete, 
I have more sound common sense than many clever, 
worthy, but too enthusiastic people such as the person 
for example who suggested you should engrave this score. 
All the same, my unfavourable view does not prevent my 
being grateful even in this case for your friendship, 
which I value tremendously. 

"Is it not time to lay the score of The Maid of Orleans 
before the Opera Direction? I think it is just the right 
moment. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, February 6th(i%th), 1880. 

" The more I look at Michel Angelo's works the more 
wonderful they seem to me. Just now I was contemplat- 

1 Eugene Oniegin. 


ing his ' Moses.' The church was empty, and there was 
nothing to disturb my meditations. I assure you I was 
filled with terror. You will remember that Moses is stand- 
ing with his head slightly turned towards the sacrifice 
which is to be offered to Baal. His expression is angry 
and menacing ; his figure majestic and commanding. One 
feels he has only to speak a word, for erring mortals to fall 
on their knees before him. It is impossible to conceive 
anything more perfect than this great statue. With this 
genius the form expresses his entire thought, there is 
nothing forced, no pose, such as we see, for instance, in 
Bernini's statues, of which Rome unfortunately possesses 
so many examples. 

" I am so pleased with a book that has come into my 
hands, I cannot put it down. It is nothing less than an 
excellent rendering of Tacitus into French. He is a great 

About this time the performance of Tchaikovsky's opera 
The Oprichnik was forbidden, because the subject was 
considered too revolutionary in that moment of political 
agitation. "Je n'ai qu'a m'en feliciter," wrote the composer 
on receiving the news, " for I am glad of any hindrance to 
the performance of this ill-starred opera." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, February ibth (28^), 1880. 

" I chose the title of Divertimento for the second move- 
ment of my Suite, because it was the first which occurred 
to me. I wrote the movement without attaching any great 
importance to it, and only interpolated it in the Suite to 
avoid rhythmical monotony. I wrote it actually at one 
sitting, and spent much less time upon it than upon any 
other movement. As it turns out, this has not hindered it 
from giving more pleasure than all the rest. You are not 
the only one who thinks so. It proves for the thousandth 
time that an author never judges his own works with 

" I am most grateful to you for calling Colonne's atten- 


tion to my new works, but I must tell you frankly : it 
would be very disagreeable to me if you were again to 
repay him in a material form for his attention. . . . The 
first time it was very painful that you should have spent a 
considerable sum of money, although I was glad to feel 
that, thanks to your devoted friendship, our symphony 
should be made known to the Paris public. I was grateful 
for this new proof of your sympathy. But now it would 
be painful and disgraceful to me to know that Colonne 
could only see the worth of my compositions by the flash- 
light of gold. All the same, I am grateful for your re- 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ROME, February \%th (March \st\ 1880. 

"The Concerto 1 of Brahms does not please me better 
than any other of his works. He is certainly a great 
musician, even a Master, but, in his case, his mastery over- 
whelms his inspiration. So many preparations and circum- 
locutions for something which ought to come and charm us 
at once and nothing does come, but boredom. His music 
is not warmed by any genuine emotion. It lacks poetry, 
but makes great pretensions to profundity. These depths 
contain nothing : they are void. Take the opening of the 
Concerto, for instance. It is an introduction, a preparation 
for something fine ; an admirable pedestal for a statue ; 
but the statue is lacking, we only get a second pedestal 
piled upon the first. I do not know whether I have 
properly expressed the thoughts, or rather feelings, which 
Brahms's music awakens in me. I mean to say that he 
never expresses anything, or, when he does, he fails to 
express it fully. His music is made up of fragments 
of some indefinable something, skilfully welded together. 
The design lacks definite contour, colour, life. 

" But I must simply confess that, independent of any 
definite accusation, Brahms, as a musical personality, is 
antipathetic to me. I cannot abide him. Whatever he 
does I remain unmoved and cold. It is a purely instinctive 

1 The violin Concerto, Op. 77. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
"ROME, February 2&h (March tfh\ 1880. 

" To-day I went on foot to the Vatican and sat a long 
while in the Sistine Chapel. Here a miracle was worked. 
I felt almost for the first time in my life an artistic 
ecstasy for painting. What it means to become gradually 
accustomed to the painter's art ! I remember the time 
when all this seemed to me absurd and meaningless. . . ." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"BERLIN, March tfh (i6th\ 1880. 

" In Paris I went to the ' Comedie Francaise,' and fell 
in love with Racine or Corneille (which of them wrote 
Polyeucte ?). The beauty and strength of these verses and, 
still more, the lofty artistic truth ! At the first glance this 
tragedy seems so unreal and impossible. The last act, 
however, in which Felix, conscience-stricken and illumined 
by Christ, suddenly becomes a Christian, touched me pro- 
foundly. . . . 

"After reading Toly's letter I went to Bilse's concert. 
The large, luxuriously decorated hall, with its smell of 
indifferent cigars and food, its stocking-knitting ladies and 
beer-drinking men, made a curious impression upon me. 
After Italy, where we were constantly out in the beautiful, 
pure air, it was quite repugnant. But the orchestra was 
excellent, the acoustic splendid, and the programme good. 
I heard Schumann's ' Genoveva,' the ' Mignon ' overture, 
and a very sparkling pot-pourri^ and I was very pleased 
with it all. How glad I shall be to hear the Flying 
Dutchman to-day ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"BERLIN, March $th (17^), 1880. 

"To-day I went to the Aquarium, where I went into 
ecstasies over the chimpanzee. He lives in intimate 
friendship with a dog. It is delightful to see the two play 
together, and the chimpanzee laughs in the drollest way 


when he takes refuge in some place where the dog cannot 
get at him ! 

" I notice that I am making great progress in my 
appreciation of painting. I take the greatest delight in 
many things, especially in the Flemish school. Teniers, 
Wouvermans, and Ruysdael please me far more than the 
renowned Rubens, who represents even Christ as healthily 
robust, with unnaturally pink cheeks. One fact makes me 
begin to see myself as a great connoisseur. I recognise 
Correggio's brush before I see his name in the catalogue ! 
But then Correggio has his own manner, and all his male 
figures and heads resemble the Christ in the Vatican, and 
his women the Danae in the Borghese Palace." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ST. PETERSBURG, March ?oth (22^, 1880. 

" Your benevolence to poor, dying Henry Wieniawsky 
touches me deeply. 1 ... I pity him greatly. In him we 
shall lose an incomparable violinist and a gifted composer. 
In this respect I think Wieniawsky very talented . . . the 
beautiful Legende and parts of the A minor Concerto show 
a true creative gift." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ST. PETERSBURG, March 2oth (April u/), 1880. 

"Yesterday I suffered a good deal. The Grand Duke 
Constantine Nicholaevich has a son Constantine. This 
young man of two-and-twenty is passionately fond of 
music, and is very partial to mine. He expressed a wish 
to become more closely acquainted with me, and asked a 
relative of mine, the wife of Admiral Butakov, to arrange 
an evening party at which we might meet. 

" As he knows my misanthropical habits, this evening 
was to be of an informal nature, without dress coats and 
white ties. It was impossible to escape. The young 
man is very pleasant and has musical ability. We talked 
music from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. He composes very nicely, 

1 N. F. von Meek had given the gifted artist the wherewithal to spend his 
last days in comfort. Ten days after this letter was written Wieniawsky 


but unfortunately has no time to devote himself to it 

On March 25th several of Tchaikovsky's works were 
performed at a concert given by two singers, well known 
in Petersburg, V. Issakov and Madame Panaev. The 
First Suite and the Romeo and Juliet overture were played 
by the orchestra of the Russian Opera under Napravnik. 
The Suite had the greatest success, especially the 
" Marche Miniature." The great novelist Tourgeniev was 
present on this occasion. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"Moscow, April 2nd (i4//4), 1880. 

" I have come here with the intention of spending three 
days incognito and finishing my work. Besides, I need 
the rest. Imagine, my dear friend, for the last few days I 
have hardly ever been out of a tail coat and white tie and 
associating with the most august personages. It is all 
very flattering, sometimes touching ; but fatiguing to the 
last degree. I feel so happy and comfortable in my room 
in the hotel, not being obliged to go anywhere, or do 
anything ! " 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, April iZth (30^), 1880. 

" To-day a cold north wind is blowing. Spring has not 
yet entered into possession of her own, and the nightingale 
is not singing yet. Still, it is beautiful in the forest. 

" During the last few days I have read through two new 
operas : Anton Rubinstein's Kalashnikov and Jean de 
Nivelles by Delibes. The former is weak all through. 
Rubinstein is like a singer who has lost her voice, but still 
believes she sings charmingly. His talent has long since 
lost its charm. He really ought to give up composing and 
to be contented with his earlier works. I pray that I may 


never fall into the same error. Delibes makes just the 
opposite impression. His work is fresh, graceful, and very 

About the end of April the director of the Kiev branch 
of the Russian Musical Society offered to make Tchaikov- 
sky the principal of this section, and of the musical school 
connected with it. Although on account of its proximity 
to the home of the Davidovs at Kamenka, the neighbour- 
hood of Kiev offered many attractions to him, he declined 
the offer without hesitation. He had tasted the fruits of 
liberty and was more than ever convinced that teaching 
was not his vocation. 

During his stay at Kamenka, Tchaikovsky finished the 
orchestration of his " Italian Fantasia," which he considered, 
apart from its musical worth, one of his most effective and 
brilliant orchestral works. 

To P. I. Jurgenson. 
" KAMENKA, June 2$rd (July 5^), 1880. 

" DEAR SOUL, I believe you imagine I have no greater 
happiness than to compose occasional pieces to be played 
at forthcoming exhibitions, and that I ought to put my 
inspirations down post-haste upon paper, without knowing 
how, when, or where. I shall not stir a ringer until I get a 
positive commission. If something vocal is required of 
me, I must be supplied with a suitable text (when it is a 
question of an order I am ready to set an advertisement of 
corn-plasters to music) ; if it is to be an instrumental 
work, I must have some idea of the form it should take, 
and what it is intended to illustrate. At the same time 
a definite fee must be offered, with a definite agreement as 
to who is responsible for it, and when I shall receive it. 
I do not make all these demands from caprice, but be- 
cause I am not in a position to write these festival works 
without having some positive instructions as to what is 
required of me. There are two kinds of inspiration : one 
comes direct from the soul, by freedom of choice, or other 


creative impulse ; the other comes to order. . . Matters of 
business must be put very clearly and distinctly. Fancy if 
I had already been inspired to write a Festival Overture for 
the opening of the Exhibition ! What would have come of 
it? It might have happened that the great Anton had also 
(An-}toned something of his own. Where should I have 
been with my scribblings ? 

" I shall finish the corrections of the fourth act to-day. 
The opera (The Maid of Orleans] has become a long 
affair. My poor publisher ! Well, we must live in hope ! " 

Early in July Tchaikovsky visited Nadejda von Meck's 
estate at Brailov, for the sake of repose. At this time a 
feeling of dissatisfaction with his work seems to have taken 
possession of him. " I have written much that is beautiful," 
he wrote to his brother Modeste, " but how weak, how lack- 
ing in mastery ! . . . I have made up my mind to write 
nothing new for a time, but to devote myself to the correct- 
ing and re-editing of my earlier works." 

A letter to Nadejda von Meek, dated Brailov, July 5th 
(i7th), 1880, contains some interesting comments upon 
Glinka and his work. 

"... Glinka is quite an unusual phenomenon ! Reading 
his Memoirs, which reveal a nice, amiable, but rather 
commonplace man, we can hardly realise that the same 
mind created that wonderful ' Slavsia/ : which is worthy to 
rank with the work of the greatest geniuses. And how 
many more fine things there are in his other opera (Russian) 
and the overtures ! How astonishingly original is his 
Komarinskaya, from which all the Russian composers who 
followed him (including myself) continue to this day to 
borrow contrapuntal and harmonic combinations directly 
they have to develop a Russian dance-tune ! This is done 
unconsciously ; but the fact is, Glinka managed to concen- 
trate in one short work what a dozen second-rate talents 
would only have invented with the whole expenditure of 
their powers. 

1 " Slavsia," the great national chorus in A Life for the 7"sar. 


"And it was this same Glinka who, at the height of his 
maturity, composed such a weak, trivial thing as the 
Polonaise for the Coronation (written a year before his 
death), or the children's polka, of which he speaks in his 
Memoirs at such length, and with such self-satisfaction, as 
though it had been a masterpiece. 

" Mozart, too, expresses himself with great naiveti in his 
letters to his father and, in fact, all through his life. But 
this was a different kind of simplicity. Mozart is a genius 
whose childlike innocence, gentleness of spirit and virginal 
modesty are scarcely of this earth. He was devoid of 
self-satisfaction and boastfulness ; he seems hardly to have 
been conscious of the greatness of his genius. Glinka, on 
the contrary, is imbued with a spirit of self-glorification ; 
he is ready to become garrulous over the most trivial 
events in his life, or the appearance of his least important 
works, and is convinced it is all of historical importance. 
Glinka is a gifted Russian aristocrat of his time, and has 
the faults of his type : petty vanity, limited culture, intoler- 
ance, ostentatiousness and a morbid sensibility to, and 
impatience of, all criticism. These are generally the 
characteristics of mediocrity ; how they come to exist in a 
man who ought so it seems to dwell in calm and modest 
pride, conscious of his power, is beyond my comprehension ! 
In one page of his Memoirs Glinka says he had a bulldog 
whose conduct was not irreproachable, and his servant had 
to be continually cleaning the room. Kukolnik, to whom 
Glinka entrusted his Memoirs for revision, remarked in the 
margin, ' Why put in this ? ' Glinka pencilled underneath, 
' Why not ? ' Is not this highly characteristic ? Yet, all 
the same, he composed the * Slavsia } " ! 

To N. F. von Meek. 

11 BRAILOV, July 6th (i8/^), 1880. 

" To-day I went to the Orthodox, the new Catholic, and 
the monastery churches. There is something about the 
monastic singing here, as in all Russian churches, which 
enrages me to the last degree. It is the chord of the 
dominant seventh in its original position, which we misuse 
so terribly. There is nothing so unmusical, or so unsuitable 


to the Orthodox Church as this commonplace chord, which 
was introduced during the eighteenth century by Messrs. 
Galuppi, Sarti, Bortniansky and Co., and has since become 
so much a part of our church music that the Gospodi 
pomilui 1 cannot be sung without it. This chord reminds 
me of the accordion, which only gives out two harmonies : 
the tonic and dominant. It disfigures the natural progres- 
sion of the parts and weakens and vulgarises our church 
music. To make you clearly understand what it is that 
annoys me I will give you an example : 


* " 

instead of this they ought to sing 

* * * 


ir : ? :$ :? 

" The new Catholic church makes a pleasant impression. 
I much prefer our Orthodox liturgy to the Mass, especially 
to the so-called ' Low Mass,' which seems to me devoid of 
all solemnity." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BRAILOV, July StA (20^), 1880. 

" Yesterday I went an expedition in the forest, where 
formerly there used to be wild goats, of which now only 
one specimen is left. They say the others were all de- 
voured by the wolves in winter. It is a great pity ! But I 
was consoled by the beauty of the evening and a wonderful 
walk. At sunset I had tea, and then wandered alone by 
the steep bank of the stream behind the deer-park, and 
drank in all the deep delight of the forest at sundown, 
and freshness of the evening air. Such moments, I 
thought, helped us to bear with patience the many minor 
grievances of existence. They make us in love with life. 
We are promised eternal happiness, immortal existence, 

1 " Lord, have mercy" (Kyric eleison). 


but we do not realise this, nor shall we perhaps attain to 
it. But if we are worthy of it, and if it is really eternal, 
we shall soon learn to enjoy it. Meanwhile, one wishes to 
live, in order to experience again such moments as those 
of yesterday. 

" To-day I intended to leave for Simaki, but while I am 
writing to you a terrific storm is raging, and it is evidently 
going to be a wet day ; so perhaps I shall remain here. 
I am drawn to Simaki, and yet I regret leaving Brailov. 
Dear friend, to-day I have committed a kind of burglary 
in your house, and I will confess my crime. There was 
no key to the bookcase in the drawing-room next to your 
bedroom, but I saw it contained some new books which 
interested me greatly. Even Marcel could not find the 
key, so it occurred to me to try the one belonging to the 
cupboard near my room, and it opened the bookcase at 
once. I took out Byron and Martinov's Moscow. Make 
your mind easy, all your books and music remain un- 
touched. To quiet Marcel's conscience I gave him, when 
about to leave for Simaki, a memorandum of what I had 
taken, and before I actually depart I will return him the 
books and music to replace in their proper order. Pray 
forgive my self-justification." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" SIMAKI, July %th (20^), 1880. 

"... I expected a great deal from Simaki, but the 
reality far surpasses my expectations. What a wonderful 
spot this is, and how poor Brailov seems now I am here ! 
The small house is just the same as when I saw it last 
year, only it has been done up a little ; the furniture and 
upholstery are partly new ; the arrangements are the ideal 
of comfort. But the surroundings are enchanting ! The 
garden is a mass of flowers. I simply swim in an ocean 
of delightful impressions. An hour ago I was in the 
millet-field which lies beyond the garden, and so great was 
my ecstasy that I fell upon my knees and thanked God 
for the profound joy I experienced. I stood on rising 
ground ; nothing was visible in the distance but the dense 
green which surrounds my little house ; on every side the 


forest spreads to the hills; across the stream lay the hamlet, 
whence came various pleasant rural sounds ; the voices of 
children, the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle, 
driven home from pasture. In the west the sun was setting 
in splendour ; while in the east the crescent moon was 
already up. Everywhere beauty and space! What mo- 
ments life holds ! Thanks to these intervals, it is possible 
to forget everything ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"SIMAKI, July gth (2ist), 1880. 

"... The night has been glorious ! At 2 a.m. I re- 
luctantly left my place by the window. The moon shone 
brightly. The stillness, the perfume of the flowers, and 
those wondrous indefinable sounds that belong to the 
night ah God, how beautiful it all is ! Dear friend, I am 
glad you are at Interlaken, of which I am very fond ; but 
all the same I do not envy you. It would be hard to find 
a place in which the conditions of life would conform 
better to my ideal than Simaki. All day long I feel as 
though I were lost in some wonderful, fantastic dream." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" SIMAKI, July \^th (26^), 1880. 

" I have just been playing the first act of The Maid of 
Orleans, which is now ready for the printer. Either I am 
mistaken, or it is not in vain, dear friend, that you have 
had the clock you gave me decorated with the figure of 
my latest operatic heroine. I do not think The Maid of 
Orleans my finest, or the most emotional, of my works, but 
it seems to me to be the one most likely to make my name 
popular. I believe Oniegin and one or two of my instru- 
mental works are far more closely allied to my individual 
temperament. I was less absorbed in The Maid of 
Orleans than in our Symphony, for instance, or the second 
Quartet ; but I gave more consideration to the scenic and 
musical effects and these are the most important things 
in opera." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"SiMAKi, July \%th (3oM), 1880. 

" Yesterday evening to take a rest from my own work 
I played through Bizet's Carmen from cover to cover. I 
consider it a chef-d'oeuvre in the fullest sense of the word : 
one of those rare compositions which seems to reflect most 
strongly in itself the musical tendencies of a whole genera- 
tion. It seems to me that our own period differs from 
earlier ones in this one characteristic : that contemporary 
composers are engaged in the pursuit of charming and 
piquant effects, unlike Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and 
Schumann. What is the so-called New Russian School 
but the cult of varied and pungent harmonies, of original 
orchestral combinations and every kind of purely external 
effect ? Musical ideas give place to this or that union of 
sounds. Formerly there was composition, creation ; now 
(with few exceptions) there is only research and invention. 
This development of musical thought is naturally purely 
intellectual, consequently contemporary music is clever, 
piquant, and eccentric ; but cold and lacking the glow of 
true emotion. And behold, a Frenchman comes on the 
scene, in whom these qualities of piquancy and pungency 
are not the outcome of effort and reflection, but flow from 
his pen as in a free stream, flattering the ear, but touching 
us also. It is as though he said to us : 'You ask nothing 
great, superb, or grandiose you want something pretty, 
here is a pretty opera ' ; and truly I know of nothing in 
music which is more representative of that element which 
I call the pretty (le jolt). ... I cannot play the last scene 
without tears in my eyes ; the gross rejoicings of the crowd 
who look on at the bull-fight, and, side by side with this, 
the poignant tragedy and death of the two principal 
characters, pursued by an evil fate, who come to their in- 
evitable end through a long series of sufferings. 

" I am convinced that ten years hence Carmen will be 
the most popular opera in the world. But no one is a 
prophet in his own land. In Paris Carmen has had no real 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"SiMAKi,/w/y i8M (soM), 1880. 

"MY DEAR MODI, How worried I am by my Maid of 
Orleans, and how glad I am to have done with her ! Now 
she has flown to Moscow and, until the time of perform- 
ance comes, I need not bother about her any more. . . . 

" Thanks (in an ironical sense) for your suggestion that 
I should read Lhomme qui rit. Do you not know the story 
of my relations to Victor Hugo? Anyhow, I will tell you 
what came of them. I took up Les travailleurs de la Mer ; 
I read, and read, and grew more and more irritated by his 
grimaces and buffoonery. Finally, after a whole series of 
short, unmeaning phrases, consisting of exclamations, 
antitheses, and asterisks, I lost my temper, spat upon the 
book, tore it to pieces, stamped upon it, and wound up 
by throwing it out of the window. From that moment I 
cannot bear the mention of Victor Hugo! Believe me, 
your Zola is just such another mountebank, but more 
modern in spirit. I do not dislike him quite so much as 
Hugo, but very nearly. He disgusts me, as a girl would 
disgust me who pretended to be simple and natural, while 
all the time she was essentially a flirt and coquette. 

" In proportion as I like modern French music, their 
literature and journalism seem to me revolting. 

"Yesterday I wrote to you about Bizet, to-day I am enthu- 
siastic about Massenet. I found his oratorio, Mary Mag- 
dalene, at N. F.'s. After I had read the text, which treats 
not only of the relations between Christ, the Magdalene, 
and Judas, but also of Golgotha and the Resurrection, I 
felt a certain prejudice against the work, because it seemed 
too audacious. When I began to play it, however, I was 
soon convinced that it was no commonplace composition. 
The duet between Christ and the Magdalene is a master- 
piece. I was so touched by the emotionalism of the music, 
in which Massenet has reflected the eternal compassion of 
Christ, that I shed many tears. Wonderful tears! All 
praise to the Frenchman who had the art of calling them 
forth. . . . The French are really first in contemporary 
music. All day long this duet has been running in my 


head, and under its influence I have written a song, the 
melody of which is very reminiscent of Massenet." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" SIMAKI, July 2^th (August $th\ 1880. 

" Have I told you, dear friend, that I am studying 
English? Here I work very regularly, and with good 
results. I hope in six months I shall be able to read 
English easily. That is my sole aim ; I know that at my 
age it is impossible to speak it well. But to read Shake- 
speare, Dickens, and Thackeray in the original would be 
the consolation of my old age." 1 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" KAMENKA, July $ist (August I2//&), 1880. 

" It is two days since I came to Kamenka. I was glad, 
very glad, to see all our people again, but I am not in high 
spirits. A kind of apathy has come over me ; a dislike to 
work, to reading, and particularly to exercise, although I 
dutifully do my two hours a day. Apart from the people, 
everything here seems to me stuffy and frowsy, beginning 
with the air. When I think of the intoxicating charm of 
the gardens, the air perfumed by field and forest, at 
Simaki ; when I look at the poor, dusty trees, and the arid, 
barren soil of this place ; when instead of the clear, cold 
stream I have to content myself with my sitz-bath I am 
overcome with a sickening sense of regret." 

To P. /. Jurgenson. 
" KAMENKA, August \2th (24^), 1880. 

" If I should ever become famous, and anyone should 
collect materials for my biography, your letter to-day would 
give a very false impression of me. Anyone would sup- 
pose I had been in the habit of flattering influential people 
and making advances to them with the object of getting 

1 P. I. Jurgenson informed me that Tchaikovsky did succeed in acquiring 
sufficient English to read Pickwick and David Copperfield in the original. 
When he took to conducting, he had no time for the study of languages. 


my works performed. This would be entirely untrue. I 
have never in my life raised a finger to win the favour of 
Bilse, or another. This is a sort of ' passive ' pride. It is 
another matter if the advances are made from the other 
side. . . . 

" As regards your advice to imitate Anton Rubinstein, I 
must tell you that our positions are so different that 
no comparison can be made between us. Take away 
Rubinstein's virtuosity, and he immediately falls from his 
greatness to the level of my nothingness. Well, I should 
like to see which of us has the most composer's pride ! In 
any case I am not such a grandee that at the advances 
of so profitable and influential a personage as Bilse I can 
reply : ' this is no business of mine ; apply to Jurgenson.' 

" The corrected manuscripts are ready, and shall be sent 
to-morrow. The Italian Capriccio can be printed, but I 
should like to look through the concerto once more, and 
beg you to send me another revise. When I sent it to 
Nicholas Rubinstein in the spring, I asked him to make his 
criticisms to Taneiev, and to request the latter to make the 
necessary alterations in the piano part without changing 
the musical intention, of which I will not alter a single 
line. Taneiev replied that there were no alterations re- 
quired. Consequently this must have been Rubinstein's 
opinion. But we can hardly assume that he will study the 

From a letter to Jurgenson, dated some days later than 
the above, we see that Tchaikovsky had resolved to devote 
part of the current year to revising all his works pub- 
lished by this firm "from Opus I. to the Third Symphony." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, August \$th (25^), 1880. 

" You ask me if I share your feelings when thinking of 
the possibility of monumental fame ? Fame ! What con- 
tradictory sentiments the word awakes in me ! On the 
one hand I desire and strive for it ; on the other I detest 
it. If the chief thought of my life is concentrated upon 
my creative work, I cannot do otherwise than wish for 

2 c 


fame. If I feel a continual impulse to express myself in 
the language of music, it follows that I need to be heard ; 
and the larger my circle of sympathetic hearers, the better. 
I desire with all my soul that my music should become 
more widely known, and that the number of those people 
who derive comfort and support from their love of it should 
increase. In this sense not only do I love fame, but it 
becomes the aim of all that is most earnest in my work. 
But, alas ! when I begin to reflect that with an increasing 
audience will come also an increase of interest in my 
personality, in the more intimate sense ; that there will be 
inquisitive people among the public who will tear aside the 
curtain behind which I have striven to conceal my private 
life ; then I am filled with pain and disgust, so that I half 
wish to keep silence for ever, in order to be left in peace. 
I am not afraid of the world, for I can say that my con- 
science is clear, and I have nothing to be ashamed of; but 
the thought that someone may try to force the inner world 
of my thoughts and feelings, which all my life I have 
guarded so carefully from outsiders this is sad and terrible. 
There is a tragic element, dear friend, in this conflict be- 
tween the desire for fame and the fear of its consequences. 
I am attracted to it like the moth to the candle, and I, too, 
burn my wings. Sometimes I am possessed by a mad 
desire to disappear for ever, to be buried alive, to ignore 
all that is going on, and be forgotten by everybody. Then, 
alas! the creative inspiration returns. ... I fly to the flame 
and burn my wings once more ! 

" Do you know my wings will soon have to bear the 
weight of my opera? I shall be up to .my neck in 
theatrical and official mire, and be suffocated in an atmo- 
sphere of petty intrigue, of microscopical, but poisonous, 
ambitions, and every kind of dense stupidity. What 
is to be done ? Either do not write operas, or be prepared 
for all this ! I believe I never shall compose another 
opera. When I look back upon all I went through last 
spring, when I was occupied with the performance of my 
last one, I lose all desire to write for the stage." 




To N. F. von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, September tfh (i6tti), 1880. 

" I am doing nothing whatever, only wandering through 
the forests and fields all day long. I want to take a change 
from my own work, with its eternal proof-correcting, and 
to play as much as possible of other people's music ; so 
I have begun to study Mozart's Zauberflote. Never was 
so senselessly stupid a subject set to such captivating 
music. How thankful I am that the circumstances of my 
musical career have not changed by a hair's breadth the 
charm Mozart exercises for me! You would not believe, 
dear friend, what wonderful feelings come over me when 
I give myself up to his music. It is something quite 
different from the stressful delight awakened in me by 
Beethoven, Schumann, or Chopin. . . . My contemporaries 
were imbued with the spirit of modern music from their 
childhood, and came to know Mozart in later years, after 
they had made acquaintance with Chopin, who reflects so 
clearly the Byronic despair and disillusionment. Fortu- 
nately, fate decreed that I should grow up in an unmusical 
family, so that in childhood I was not nourished on the 
poisonous food of the post-Beethoven music. The same 
kind fate brought me early in life in contact with Mozart, 
and thus opened up to me unsuspected horizons. These 
early impressions can never be effaced. Do you know 
that when I play Mozart, I feel brighter and younger, 
almost a youth again ? But enough. I know that we do 
not agree in our appreciation of Mozart, and that my 
dithyramb does not interest you in the least." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
11 KAMENKA, September th (2ist), 1880. 

" How fleeting were my hopes of a prolonged rest ! 
Scarcely had I begun to enjoy a few days' leisure than an 
indefinable mood of boredom, even a sense of not being in 
health, came over me. To-day I began to occupy my mind 
with projects for a new symphony, and immediately I felt 
well and cheerful. It appears as though I could not spend 
a couple of days in idleness, unless I am travelling. I dread 
lest I should become a composer of Anton Rubinstein's 
type, who considers it his bounden duty to present a new 
work to the public every day in the week. In this way he 
has dissipated his great creative talent, and has only small 
change to offer instead of the sterling gold which he could 
have given us had he written in moderation. Lately I 
have been seeking some kind of occupation that would 
take me completely away from music for a time, and would 
seriously interest me. Alas, I have not discovered it ! 
There is no guide to the history of music in Russian, and it 
would be a good thing if I could occupy myself with a book 
of this kind; I often think of it. But then I should have to 
give up composing for at least two years, and that would 
be too much. To start upon a translation that is not 
very interesting work. Write a monograph upon some 
artist ? So much has already beeri written about the great 
musicians of Western Europe. For Glinka, Dargomijsky, 
and Serov I cannot feel any enthusiasm, for, highly as I 
value their works, I cannot admire them as men. I have 
told you what I think of Glinka. Dargomijsky was even 
less cultured. As to Serov, he was a clever man of en- 
cyclopedic learning, but I knew him personally, and could 
not admire his moral character. As far as I understood him, 
he was not good-hearted, and that is sufficient reason why 
I do not care to devote my leisure to him. It would have 
been a delight to write the biography of Mozart, but it is 
impossible to do so after Otto Jahn, who devoted his life 
to the task. 

"So there is no other occupation open to me but com- 
position. I am planning a symphony or a string quartet. 
I do not know which I shall decide upon." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, September i2th (24^), 1880. 

" I venture to approach you, dear friend, with the follow- 
ing request. An employe in a counting-house, here in 
Kamenka, has a son who is remarkably gifted for painting. 
It seemed to me cruel not to give him the means of study- 
ing, so I sent him to Moscow and asked Anatol to take 
him to the School of Painting and Sculpture. All this was 
arranged, and then it turned out that the boy's mainten- 
ance would cost far more than I expected. And so I 
thought I would ask you whether in your house there was 
any corner in which this lad might live ? Not, of course, 
without some kind of supervision. He would only need a 
tiny room with a bed, a cupboard, and a table where he 
could sleep and work. Perhaps your servants would look 
after him, and give him a little advice? The boy is of 
irreproachable character : industrious, good, obedient, clean 
in his person in short, exemplary. I would undertake 
his meals. 1 . . . 

" I have also unearthed a musical talent here, in the 
daughter of the local priest, and have been successful in 
placing her at the Conservatoire." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, September igth (October ist\ 1880. 

"Yesterday I received an official intimation from the 
Imperial Opera to the effect that my opera has been 
accepted and will be produced in January. The libretto 
has been passed by the censor with one or two exceptions : 
the Archbishop must be called the Wanderer (?) ; 'every 
allusion to the Cross must be omitted, and no cross may 
be seen upon the stage.' There is nothing for it but to 

1 Unfortunately the boy did not turn out an artist of the first rank. But 
his education was not wasted, for he is now drawing-master in a public school 
in South Russia. 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, September 2%th (October loM), 1880. 

" Nicholas Rubinstein has requested me to write an im- 
portant work for chorus and orchestra, to be produced at 
the Moscow Exhibition. Nothing is more unpleasant to 
me than the manufacturing of music for such occasions. 
. . . But I have not courage to refuse. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, October loth (22*^), 1880. 

" You can imagine, dear friend, that recently my Muse 
has been very benevolent, when I tell you that I have 
written two long works very rapidly : a Festival Overture 
for the Exhibition and a Serenade in four movements for 
string orchestra. The overture 1 will be very noisy. I 
wrote it without much warmth of enthusiasm ; therefore it 
has no great artistic value. The Serenade, on the contrary, 
I wrote from an inward impulse ; I felt it, and venture to 
hope that this work is not without artistic qualities." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, October itfh (26th), 1880. 

"... How glad I am that my opera pleases you ! I 
am delighted you find no ' Russianisms ' in it, for I dreaded 
this and had striven in this work to be as objective as 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, October itfh (z6tti), 1880. 

" Of course I am no judge of my own works, but I can 
truthfully say that with very few exceptions they have 
all been felt and lived by me, and have come straight from 
my heart. It is the greatest happiness to know that there 
is another kindred soul in the world who has such a true 

1 The overture entitled The Year 1812, op. 49, for the consecration of 
the Cathedral of the Saviour, Moscow. It was one of the three commissions 
suggested by N. Rubinstein, referred to in the previous letter. 


and delicate appreciation of my music. The thought that 
she will discern all that I have felt, while writing this or 
that work, invariably warms and inspires me. There are 
few such souls ; among those who surround me I can only 
point to my brothers. Modeste is very near to me in 
mind and sentiment. Among professional musicians I 
have met with the least congenial sympathy. . . . 

"You ask why I have never written a trio. Forgive 
me, dear friend, I would do anything to give you pleasure 
but this is beyond me ! My acoustic apparatus is so 
ordered that I simply cannot endure the combination of 
pianoforte with violin or violoncello. To my mind the 
timbre of these instruments will not blend, and I assure 
you it is a torture to me to have to listen to a trio or 
sonata of any kind for piano and strings. I cannot ex- 
plain this physiological peculiarity ; I simply state it as a 
fact. Piano and orchestra that is quite another matter. 
Here again there is no blending of tone ; the piano by its 
elastic tone differs from all other instruments in timbre ; 
but we are now dealing with two equal opponents : the 
orchestra, with its power and inexhaustible variety of 
colour, opposed by the small, unimposing, but high-mettled 
pianoforte, which often comes off victorious in the hands of 
a gifted executant. Much poetry is contained in this con- 
flict, and endless seductive combinations for the composer. 
On the other hand, how unnatural is the union of three 
such individualities as the pianoforte, the violin and the 
violoncello ! Each loses something of its value. The 
warm and singing tone of the violin and the 'cello sounds 
limited beside that king of instruments, the pianoforte ; 
while the latter strives in vain to prove that it can sing 
like its rivals. I consider the piano should only be 
employed under these conditions : (i) As a solo instru- 
ment; (2) opposed to the orchestra; (3) for accompani- 
ment, as the background to a picture. But a trio implies 
equality and relationship, and do these exist between 
stringed solo instruments and the piano? They do not; 
and this is the reason why there is always something 
artificial about a pianoforte trio, each of the three instru- 
ments being continually called upon to express what the 
composer imposes upon it, rather than what lies within its 


characteristic utterance ; while the musician meets with 
perpetual difficulties in the distribution of the voices and 
grouping of the parts. I do full justice to the inspired art 
with which Beethoven, Schumann, and Mendelssohn have 
conquered these difficulties. I know there exist many 
trios containing music of admirable quality ; but personally 
I do not care for the trio as a form, therefore I shall never 
produce anything sincerely inspired through the medium 
of this combination of sounds. I know, dear friend, that 
we disagree on this point, and that you, on the contrary, 
are fond of a trio ; but in spite of all the similarity between 
our artistic temperaments, we remain two separate in- 
dividualities ; therefore it is not surprising that we should 
not agree in every particular." 

During the autumn of 1880 Tchaikovsky suffered greatly 
from neuralgic headaches. He remained at Kamenka 
until early in November, when he returned to Moscow for 
a short time, in order to correct proofs and settle other 
business matters. Towards the end of the month he wrote 
to Nadejda von Meek from St. Petersburg : 

"November 27^ {December gtfi), 1880. 

" The directors of the Moscow Musical Society are 
greatly interested in my Liturgy (St. John Chrysostom). 
One of their number, named Alexeiev, gave a good fee to 
have it studied by one of the best choirs. This resulted 
in a performance of the work in the concert-room of the 
Moscow Conservatoire. The choir sang wonderfully well, 
and it was altogether one of the happiest moments in my 
musical career. It was decided to give the Liturgy at an 
extra concert of the Musical Society. On the same 
evening my Serenade for strings was played, in order to 
give me an agreeable surprise. For the moment I regard 
it as my best work. . . . 

" Have I told you already that Eugene Oniegin is to be 
splendidly mounted at the Opera in Moscow ? I am very 
pleased, because it will decide the important question 
whether the work will become part of the repertory or 
not, that is to say, whether it will keep its place on the 


stage. As I never intended it for this purpose, I did 
nothing on my own initiative to get it produced." 

While in St. Petersburg, Tchaikovsky undertook to make 
some changes in his new opera, The Maid of Orleans. 
This was in order that the part of Joan of Arc herself 
might be taken by Madame Kamensky, a mezzo-soprano 
of unusual range and quality. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, December itfh (26th), 1880. 

" One newspaper blames me for having dedicated my 
opera, The Maid of Orleans, to Napravnik, and considers 
it an unworthy action on my part to win his good graces 
in this way. Napravnik one of the few thoroughly 
honest musicians in Petersburg will be very much upset. 
They also find fault with me because my opera is not 
on sale. 

" All this is very galling and vexatious, but I do not 
let it trouble me much. 

" I have sworn to myself to avoid Moscow and Peters- 
burg in future." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, December \ith (29^), 1880. 

" I have been very much upset the last few days. Last 
year I received a letter from a young man, unknown to 
me, of the name of Tkachenko, containing the curious 
proposal that I should take him as my servant and give 
him music lessons in return. The letter was so clever and 
original, and showed such a real love of music, that it 
affected me very sympathetically. A correspondence be- 
tween us followed, from which I learnt that he was already 
twenty-three, and had no musical knowledge. I wrote 
frankly to him that at his age it was too late to begin 
to study music. After this, I heard no more of him for 
nine months. The day before yesterday I received another 
letter from him, returning all my previous correspondence, 
in order that it might not fall into strange hands after his 


death. He took leave of me and said he had resolved to 
commit suicide. The letter was evidently written in a 
moment of great despair, and touched me profoundly. I 
saw from the postmark that it was written from Voronezh, 
and decided to telegraph to someone there, asking them 
to seek Tkachenko with the help of the police and tell him 
if it were not already too late he might expect a letter 
from me. Fortunately, Anatol had a friend at Voronezh, 
to whom we telegraphed at once. Last night I heard from 
him that Tkachenko had been discovered in time. He 
was in a terrible condition. 

" I immediately sent him some money and invited him 
to come to Moscow. How it will end I do not know, but 
I am glad to have saved him from self-destruction." 

At this time Tchaikovsky's valet, Alexis, was compelled 
to fulfil his military service, and master and servant were 
equally affected at the moment of separation. 

On December 6th (i8th) the Italian Capriccio was per- 
formed for the first time under the conductorship of 
Nicholas Rubinstein. Its success was incontestable, al- 
though criticism varied greatly as to its merits, and the 
least favourable described it as being marred by "coarse 
and cheap" effects. In St. Petersburg, where it was given 
a few weeks later by Napravnik, it met with scant appre- 
ciation ; Cui pronounced it to be " no work of art, but a 
valuable gift to the programmes of open-air concerts." 

The performance of the Liturgy took place in Moscow 
on December i8th (soth). Thanks to the stir which 
had been made by the confiscation of Tchaikovsky's first 
sacred work, the concert was unusually crowded. At the 
close the composer was frequently recalled. Nevertheless, 
there was considerable difference of opinion as to the 
success of the work. 

Tchaikovsky was not much affected by the views of the 
professional critics ; but he was deeply hurt by a letter 
emanating from the venerable Ambrose, vicar of Moscow, 
which appeared in the Rouss. This letter complained that 


the Liturgy was the most sacred possession of the people, 
and should only be heard in church ; that to use the service 
as a libretto was a profanation of the holy words. It con- 
cluded by congratulating the orthodox that the text had 
at least been treated by a worthy musician, but what 
would happen if some day a " Rosenthal " or a " Rosen- 
bluhm" should lay hands upon it? Inevitably then "our 
most sacred words would be mocked at and hissed." 

Fatigued by the excitement of these weeks, Tchaikovsky 
returned to Kamenka to spend Christmas in the restful 
quiet of the country. 

The first performance of Eugene Oniegin at the Opera 
House in Moscow took place on January I ith (23rd), 1881. 
The scenery was not new and left much to be desired. 
The singers, with the exception of Madame Kroutikov, 
who took the part of Madame Larina, and Bartsal, who 
appeared as the Frenchman Triquet, were lacking in ex- 
perience. The costumes, however, were perfectly true to 
history. The performance evoked much applause, but 
more for the composer than for the opera itself. The 
great public allowed the best situations in the work to pass 
unnoticed, but the opera found an echo in the hearts of the 
minority, so that gradually the work gained the apprecia- 
tion of the crowd and won a lasting success. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, January \2th (24^), 1881. 

" Yesterday was the first night of Etigene Oniegin. 
I was oppressed by varied emotions, both at the rehearsals 
and on the night itself. At first the public was very re- 
served ; by degrees, however, the applause grew and at the 
last all went well. The performance and mounting of the 
opera were satisfactory. . . . 

"Tkachenko (the young man who wanted to commit 
suicide) has arrived. I have seen him. On the whole he 
made a sympathetic impression upon me. His sufferings 


are the outcome of the internal conflict which exists be- 
tween his aspirations and stern reality. He is intelligent 
and cultivated, yet in order to earn his bread he has had 
to be a railway guard. He is very anxious to become 
a musician. He is nervous, and morbidly modest, and 
seems to be broken in spirit. Poverty and solitude have 
made him misanthropical. His views are rather strange, 
but he is by no means stupid. I am sorry for him and 
have agreed to look after him. I have decided that he 
shall go to the Conservatoire, and then it will be seen 
whether he can take up music, or some other career. It 
will not be difficult to make a useful and contented man 
of him." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, January igtk (^ist), 1881. 

" Dear, kind friend, it has come to this : I take up my 
pen to write to you unwillingly, because I feel the im- 
mediate need to pour out all the suffering and bitterness 
which is heaped up in me. You will wonder how a man 
who is successful in his work can still complain and rail at 
fate ? But my successes are not so important as they 
seem ; besides they do not compensate me for the intoler- 
able sufferings I undergo when I mix in the society of my 
fellow-creatures ; when I have to be constantly posing 
before them ; when I cannot live as I wish, and as I am 
accustomed to do, but am tossed to and fro like a ball in 
the round of city life. . . . 

" Eugene Oniegin does not progress. The prima donna 
is seriously ill, so that the opera cannot be performed 
again for some time. . . . The criticisms upon it are peculiar. 
Some critics find the ' couplets ' for Triquet the best thing 
in the work and think Tatiana's part dry and colourless. 
Others think I have no inspiration, but great cleverness. 
The Petersburg papers write in chorus to rend my Italian 
Capriccio, declaring it to be vulgar ; and Cui prophesies 
that The Maid of Orleans will turn out a commonplace 


To N. F. von Meek. 
" PETERSBURG, January 2^th (February 8//fc), 1881. 

" I will tell you something about Tkachenko. He is an 
extraordinary being! I had looked after him in every 
respect, and he began his studies with grea^ zeal. The day 
before I left Moscow he came to 'talk to me on serious 
business,' and the longer he talked, the more convinced I 
became that he is mentally and morally deranged. He has 
taken it into his head that / am not keeping him for his 
own sake, but in order to acquire the reputation of a bene- 
factor. He added that he was not disposed to be the victim 
of my desire for popularity, and absolutely refused to 
recognise me as his benefactor, so I was not to reckon upon 
his gratitude. 

" I replied coldly, and advised him to devote himself to 
his work, without troubling himself as to my motives for 
assisting him. I assured him I was quite indifferent as to 
his gratitude, that I was just leaving the town, and begged 
him not to waste his thoughts on me, but to fix them ex- 
clusively upon his work. 

" I have entrusted him to the supervision of Albrecht, the 
Inspector of the Conservatoire. 

" Have you heard of Nicholas Rubinstein's illness ? His 
condition is serious, but in spite of it he goes about and 
does his work. The doctors insist upon his going away 
and taking rest ; but he declares he could not live without 
the work he is used to. . . ." 

On January 2ist (February 2nd) Tchaikovsky's Second 
Symphony was given in its revised form at the Musical 
Society in St. Petersburg, and, according to the newspapers, 
met with a great success. Not a single critic, however, 
observed the changes in the work, nor that the first move- 
ment was entirely new. 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"PETERSBURG, February ist (i$th), 1881. 

". . . The mounting of The Maid of Orleans will be 
very beggarly. The Direction, which has spent 10,000 
(roubles) upon a new ballet, refuses to sacrifice a kopeck 
for the opera." 

To the same. 
"PETERSBURG, February *jth (i<)th\ 1881. 

" The opera has been postponed until February 1 3th. I 
shall set off the very next day. The plan of my journey 
is : Vienna, Venice, Rome. The rehearsals are in progress. 
Most of the artists show great sympathy for my music, of 
which I am very proud. But the officials are doing all in 
their power to spoil the success of the opera. A certain 
Loukashevich is trying by every kind of intrigue to pre- 
vent Madame Kamensky from taking the part of Joan of 
Arc. When at yesterday's rehearsal for scenic and 
vocal reasons I transferred a melody from Joan's part 
to that of Agnes Sorel, he declared / had no right to do 
such a thing without permission. Sometimes I feel inclined 
to withdraw the score and leave the theatre." 

The production of The Maid of Orleans at the Maryinsky 
Theatre left a very unpleasant memory in Tchaikovsky's 
mind. The intrigues between the prima donnas, the hostile 
attitude of the Direction, his dissatisfaction with some of 
the singers all embittered the composer in the highest 
degree. His artistic vanity was exceedingly sensitive, 
even when his best friends told him " the plain truth." He 
submitted to the criticisms of Napravnik, and followed his 
advice regarding many details, because he was convinced 
of this musician's goodwill and great experience. If he 
got through this trying time fairly well, it was thanks to 
the fact that he himself, as well as the artists who were 
taking part in the work, did not doubt that the opera would 
eventually have a great success. 


On the day following the performance, Tchaikovsky 
wrote : 

"The success of the opera was certain, even after the 
first act . . . the second scene of the third act was least 
applauded, but the fourth act was very well received. 
Altogether I was recalled twenty-four times. Kamenskaya 
was admirable; she even acted well, which she seldom does. 
Prianichnikov was the best among the other singers." 

Tchaikovsky started for Italy under this favourable im- 
pression, and first became aware through a telegram from 
Petersburg in the Neue Freie Presse that, in spite of an 
ovation from the public, The Maid of Orleans was " poor 
in inspiration, wearisome, and monotonous." This was his 
first intimation of the attacks upon the opera which were 
made by the Press, and which caused the opera to be hastily 
withdrawn from the repertory of the Maryinsky Theatre. 

Cui, as usual, led the chorus of unfavourable opinion, 
but all the other critics were more or less in agreement 
with his views. 


Impatient for the sunshine, Tchaikovsky broke his journey 
at Florence, whence he wrote to Nadejda von Meek on 
February I9th (March 3rd), 1881 : 

" What light ! What sunshine ! What a delight to sit 
at the open window with a bunch of violets before me, and 
to drink in the fresh air ! I am full of sensations. I feel 
so well, and yet so sad I could weep. Yet I know not 
why. Only music can express these feelings." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ROME, February 22nd (March 6th) t 1881. 

" I have just been lunching with the Grand Dukes Serge 
and Paul Alexandrovich. The invitation came early this 
morning, and I had to go out in search of a dress-coat. It 


was no easy matter to procure one, for, being Sunday, 
nearly all the shops were closed. It was with difficulty 
that I arrived at the Villa Sciarra in proper time. The 
Grand Duke Constantine introduced me to his cousins, who 
showed me much kindness and attention. All three are 
very sympathetic ; but you can imagine, with my misan- 
thropical shyness, how trying I find such meetings with 
strangers, especially with men of that aristocratic world. 
On Tuesday there is a dinner at Countess Brobinsky's, and 
I have also been invited to a soiree by Countess Sollo- 
goub. I did not expect to have to lead this kind of life in 
Rome. I shall have to leave, for no doubt other invita- 
tions await me which I cannot refuse. Lest I should offend 
somebody, I am weak enough invariably to accept. I have 
not strength of mind to decline all such engagements." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
"ROME, February 26th (March io//&), 1881. 
" I can just imagine how you are making fun of my 
worldliness ! I cannot understand where I get strength to 
endure this senseless existence ! Naturally, I am annoyed, 
and my visit to Rome is spoilt but I have not altogether 
lost heart, and find occasional opportunities of enjoying the 
place. O society ! What can be .more appalling, duller, 
more intolerable? Yesterday I was dreadfully bored at 
Countess X.'s, but so heroically did I conceal my feelings 
that my hostess in bidding me good-bye said : ' I cannot 
understand why you have not come to me before. I am 
sure that after to-night you will repent not having made 
my acquaintance sooner.' This is word for word ! She 
really pities me ! May the devil take them all ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"NAPLES, March $rd (\$th\ 1881. 

"Yesterday I was about to write to you when Prince 
Stcherbatiov came to tell me of the Emperor's death, 1 
which was a great shock to me. At such moments it is 

1 Alexander II., who was assassinated on the bank of the Catharine 


very miserable to be abroad. I long to be in Russia, 
nearer to the source of information, and to take part in 
the demonstrations accorded to the new Tsar ... in short, 
to be living in touch with one's own people. It seems so 
strange after receiving such news to hear them chattering 
at table d'hote about the beauties of Sorrento, etc. 

" The Grand Dukes wanted to take me with them to 
Athens and Jerusalem, which they intended to visit a few 
days hence. But this has fallen through, for all three are 
on their way to Petersburg by now." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"March itfh (25^), 1881. 

"DEAR MODI, In Nice I heard by telegram from 
Jurgenson that Nicholai Grigorievich (Rubinstein) was 
very ill. Then two telegrams followed from the Grand 
Hote^ (i) that his state was hopeless, (2) that he had 
already passed away. I left Nice at once. Mentally, I 
endured the torments of the damned during my journey. 
I must confess, to my shame, I suffered less from the sense 
of my irreparable loss, than from the horror of seeing 
in Paris in the Grand Hotel too the body of poor 
Rubinstein. I was afraid I should not be able to bear 
the shock, although I exerted all my will-power to conquer 
this shameful cowardice. My fears were in vain. The 
body had been taken to the Russian church at six o'clock 
this morning. At the Hotel I found only Madame 
Tretiakov, 1 who never left Nicholas Rubinstein during the 
last six days of his life. She gave me all details." 2 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, March i6th (28^), 1881. 

"You regret having written me the letter in which you 
gave expression to your anger against those who have 
embittered your life. But I never for an instant believed 

1 Wife of S. Tretiakov, the wealthy art patron, afterwards chief burgomaster 
of Moscow. 

2 These details, in the form of a long letter, were communicated by Tchai- 
kovsky to the Moscow Viedomosti. 

2 D 


that you could really hate and never forgive, whatever 
might happen. It is possible to be a Christian in life and 
deed without clinging closely to dogma, and I am sure that 
un-Christian feelings could only dwell in you for a brief 
moment, as an involuntary protest against human wicked- 
ness. Such really good people as you do not know what 
hate means in the true sense of the word. What can be 
more aimless and unprofitable than hate? According to 
Christ's words, our enemies only injure us from ignorance. 
O, if only men could only be Christians in truth as well 
as in form ! If only everyone was penetrated by the 
simple truths of Christian morality! That can never be, 
for then eternal and perfect happiness would reign on 
earth ; and we are imperfect creations, who only under- 
stand goodness and happiness as the opposites of evil. We 
are, as it were, specially created to be eternally reverting to 
evil, to perpetually seek the ideal, to aspire to everlasting 
truth and never to reach the goal. At least we should be 
indulgent to those who, in their blindness, are attracted to 
evil by some inborn instinct. Are they to be blamed 
because they exist only to bring the chosen people into 
stronger relief? No, we can only say with Christ, ' Lord, 
forgive them, they know not what they do.' I feel I am 
expressing vague thoughts vaguely thoughts which are 
wandering through my mind, because a man who was good 
and dear to me has just vanished from this earth. But if 
I think and speak vaguely, I feel it all clearly enough. 
My brain is obscured to-day. How could it be otherwise 
in face of those enigmas Death, the aim and meaning of 
life, its finality or immortality ? Therefore the light of faith 
penetrates my soul more and more. Yes, dear friend, I 
feel myself increasingly drawn towards this, the one and 
only shield against every calamity. I am learning to love 
God, as formerly I did not know how to do. Now and then 
doubts come back to me ; I still strive at times to conceive 
the inconceivable with my feeble intellect ; but the voice 
of divine truth speaks louder within me. I sometimes 
find an indescribable joy in bowing before the Inscrutable, 
Omniscient God. I often pray to Him with tears in my 
eyes (where He is, what He is, I know not ; but I know 
He exists), and implore Him to grant me love and peace, 


to pardon and enlighten me ; and it is sweet to say to 
Him, ' Lord, Thy will be done/ because I know His will is 
holy. Let me also tell you that I see clearly the finger of 
God in my own life, showing me the way and upholding 
me in all danger. Why it has been God's will to shield me 
I cannot say. I wish to be humble, and not to regard 
myself as one of the elect, for God loves all His creatures 
equally. I only know He really cares for me, and I shed 
tears of gratitude for His eternal goodness. That is not 
enough. I want to accustom myself to the thought that 
all trials are good in the end. I want to love God always, 
not only when He sends me good, but when He proves 
me ; for somewhere there must exist that kingdom of 
eternal happiness, which we seek so vainly upon earth. 
The time will come when all the questionings of our 
intellects will be answered, and we shall know why God 
sends us these trials. I want to believe that there is 
another life. When this desire becomes a fact, I shall be 
happy, in so far as happiness is possible in this world. 

" To-day I attended the funeral service in the church, 
and afterwards I accompanied the remains to the Gare du 
Nord, and saw that the leaden coffin was packed in a 
wooden case and placed in a luggage van. It was painful 
and horrible to think that our poor Nicholai Grigorievich 
should return thus to Moscow. Yes, it was intensely pain- 
ful. But faith has now taken root in me, and I took 
comfort from the thought that it was God's inscrutable and 
holy will." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"PARIS, March 17/^(29^), 1881. 

" Modi, we shall soon meet again, so I will say nothing 
now about the last sad days. My present trip has been 
altogether unfortunate and calculated to weaken my love 
of going abroad. Once more I am face to face with 
changes which will affect my whole future life. First, the 
death of Nicholas Rubinstein, which is of great importance 
to me, and, secondly, the fact that Nadejda von Meek is on 
the verge of bankruptcy. I heard this talked about in 
Moscow, and begged her to tell me the truth. From her 


reply I see it is actually so. She writes that the sum I 
receive from her is nothing as compared to the millions 
that have been lost, and that she wishes to continue to pay 
it as before, but begs me not to mention it to anyone. 
But you see that this allowance is no longer a certainty, 
and therefore sooner or later I must return to my teaching. 
All this is far from cheerful." 

To Nadejda von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, April 29^ (May nth), 1881. 

" I only stayed a few days in Moscow, where I was 
forced to collect all my strength in order to decline most 
emphatically the directorship of the Conservatoire. I 
arrived here to-day." 

To P. Jurgenson. 

" KAMENKA, May *]th (19^), 1881. 

"As my sister is ill and has gone away with her husband, 
I am playing the part of the head of the family and spend 
most of my time with the children. This would be a 
nuisance if I did not care for them as though they were 
my own. ... I have no inclination to compose. I wish you 
would commission something. Is there really nothing you 
want? Some external impulse might perhaps reawaken 
my suspended activity. Perhaps I am getting old and all 
my songs are sung." 

To Nadejda von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, May Stti (20^), 1881. 

" I think I have now found a temporary occupation. In 
my present religious frame of mind it will do me good to 
dip into Russian church music. At present I am studying 
the ' rites,' that is to say, the root of our church tunes, and 
I want to try to harmonise them. 

" Every day I pray that God may preserve and uphold 
you for the sake of so many people." 


To P. Jurgenson. 

"KAMENKA, May gth (2U/), 1881. 

" I beg you to send me the following : 

"(i) I want to write a Vesper service and require the 
words in full. If there is a book on sale, a kind of ' short 
guide to the Liturgy for laymen/ please send it to me. 

" (2) I have begun to study the rites and ceremonials of 
the Church, but to acquire sufficient information on the 
subject I need Razoumovsky's History of Church Music. 
I send thanks in anticipation." 

Tchaikovsky describes his condition at this time as 
" g re 7> without inspiration or joy," but " physically sound." 
He often felt that the spring of inspiration had run dry, 
but consoled himself with the remembrance that he had 
passed through other periods "equally devoid of creative 

To E. Napravnik. 

" KAMENKA, June i^th (29^), 1881. 

" Last winter, at N. Rubinstein's request, I wrote a 
Festival Overture for the concerts of the Exhibition, 
entitled The Year 1812. Could you possibly manage to 
have this played ? If you like I will send the score for you 
to see. It is not of any great value, and I shall not be at 
all surprised or hurt if you consider the style of the music 
unsuitable to a symphony concert." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" KAMENKA, June 2\st (July $rrf), 1881. 

"My Vesper music compels me to look into many service 
books, with and without music. If you only knew how 
difficult it is to understand it all ! Every service contains 
some chants that may be modified and others that may 
not. The latter such as Khvalitey and Velikoe slavoslovie 
do not present any great difficulties ; but those that 
change such as the canonical verses to Gospodi vozzvakh 
are a science in themselves, for which a lifetime of study 


would hardly suffice. I should like at least to succeed in 
one Canon, the one relating to the Virgin. Imagine that, 
in spite of all assistance, I can arrive neither at the words 
nor the music. I went to ask our priest to explain it to me, 
but he assured me that he himself did not know anything 
about it and went through the routine of his office without 
referring to the Typikon. I am swallowed up in this sea 
of Graduals, Hymns, Canticles, Tropaires, Exapostelaires, 
etc., etc. I asked our priest how his assistant managed, 
and how he knew how, when, and where, to sing or read (for 
the Church prescribes to the smallest detail on what days, 
with what voice, and how many times things have to be 
read). He replied : ' I do not know ; before every service 
he has to look out something for himself.' If the initiated 
do not know, what can a poor sinner like myself expect ? " 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"KAMENKA,/W^ 2 15 1 (July $rd)> 1881. 

" I have received Bortniansky's works and looked them 
through. To edit them would be a somewhat finicking 
and wearisome task, because the greater number of his 
compositions are dull and worthless. Why do you want to 
issue a ' Complete Edition ' ? Let me advise you to give 
up this plan and only bring out a ' Selection from the 
works of Bortniansky.' . . . ' Complete Edition ' ? An im- 
posing word, but out of place in connection with a man of 
no great talent, who has written a mass of rubbish, and 
only about a dozen good things. I am doubtful whether 
I should lend my name to such a publication ... on the 
other hand I am a musician, and live by my work ; con- 
sequently there is nothing derogatory in my editing this 
rubbish for the sake of what I can earn. My pride, how- 
ever, suffers from it. Think it over and send me a reply." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" KAMENKA, /# yd (i$th\ 1881. 

" I am very glad, my dear, you like my songs and duets. 
1 will take this opportunity of telling you which of these 
vocal compositions I care for most. Among the duets 


- I prefer 'Thranen' ('Tears'), and among the songs: (i) 
the one to Tolstoi's words, (2) the verses of Mickievicz, 
and (3) 'War ich nicht der Halm.' The ' Schottische 
Ballade ' is also one of my favourites, but I am convinced 
it will never be so popular as I fancied it would. It should 
not be so much sung, as declaimed, but with the most 
impassioned feeling. 

To P. Jurgenson. 
" KAMENKA, /#/y $\st (August i2th\ 1881. 

" I am working intensely hard at Bortniansky to get this 
dreadful work done as soon as possible. His works as a 
rule are quite antipathetic to me. I shall finish the job, 
for I always complete anything I have begun. But some 
day I shall actually burst with rage. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, August 2^th (September $th\ 1881. 

" I wish with all my heart you could hear my Serenade 
properly performed. It loses so much on the piano, and 
I think the middle movements played by the violins 
would win your sympathy. As regards the first and last 
movements you are right. They are merely a play of 
sounds, and do not touch the heart. The first movement 
is my homage to Mozart ; it is intended to be an imitation 
of his style, and I should be delighted if I thought I had 
in any way approached my model. Do not laugh, dear, at 
my zeal in standing up for my latest creation. Perhaps my 
paternal feelings are so warm because it is the youngest 
child of my fancy. . . . 

"As regards Balakirev's songs, I am quite of your 
opinion. They are actually little masterpieces, and I am 
passionately fond of some of them. There was a time 
when I could not listen to ' Selim's Song ' without tears in 
my eyes, and now I rank ' The Song of the Golden Fish ' 
very highly." 


To S. I. Taneiev. 

" August 2$th (September 6th\ 1881. 

" I am almost certain my Vespers will not please you. 
I see nothing in them which would win your approval. 
Do you know, Sergei Ivanovich, I believe I shall never 
write anything good again, I am no longer in a condition 
to compose. What form should I choose ? none of them 
appeal to me. Always the same indispensable remplissage, 
the same routine, the same revolting methods, the same 
conventions and shams. If I were young, this aversion from 
composition might be explained by the fact that I was 
gathering my forces, and would suddenly strike out some 
new path of my own making. But, alas ! the years are 
beginning to tell. To write in a nai've way, as the bird 
sings, is no longer possible, and I lack energy to invent 
something new. I do not tell you this because I hope for 
your encouraging denial, but simply as a fact. I do not 
regret it. I have worked much in my time, in a desultory 
way, and now I am tired. It is time to rest. . . . 

" Do not speak to me of coming back to the Con- 
servatoire ; at present this is impossible. I cannot answer 
for the future. You, on the contrary, seem made to carry 
on Rubinstein's work." 


In one of his letters to Nadejda von Meek, written in 
1876, Tchaikovsky says: "I no longer compose anything 
a sure indication of an agitated mind." 

From November, 1880, until September, 1881, Tchai- 
kovsky wrote nothing from which we may conclude 
that during this time he again underwent a period of 
spiritual and mental disturbance. 

It is not surprising that during the time he spent in 
Moscow and Petersburg (November to February) he 


should not have written a note. We know that town life to 
which was added at this time the anxieties attendant upon 
the production of two operas stifled all his inclination for 
composing. His visit to Rome, with its many social 
obligations, was also unfavourable to creative work. 

That Tchaikovsky continued to be silent even after his 
return to Kamenka cannot, however, be attributed to un- 
suitable surroundings or external hindrances. It points 
rather to a restless and unhappy frame of mind. 

There were numerous reasons to account for this con- 

In the first place he was touched to the quick by the 
loss of Nicholas Rubinstein. In spite of their many differ- 
ences he had loved him with all his heart, and valued him 
as " one of the greatest virtuosi of his day." He had also 
grown to regard him as one of the chief props of his 
artistic life. Nicholas Rubinstein was always the first, and 
best, interpreter of his works for pianoforte and orchestra. 
Whenever Tchaikovsky wrote a symphonic work, he already 
heard it in imagination as it would sound in the concert- 
room in Moscow, and knew beforehand that under Rubin- 
stein's direction he would experience no disappointment. 
The great artist had the gift of discovering in Tchaikov- 
sky's works beauties of which the composer himself was 
hardly conscious. There was the sonata, for instance, 
which Tchaikovsky " did not recognise " when he heard it 
played by N. Rubinstein. And now this sure and subtle 
interpreter of all his new works was gone for ever. 

Apart from personal relations, Rubinstein's intimate 
connection with the Conservatoire had its influence upon 
Tchaikovsky. Although the latter had resigned his posi- 
tion there, he had not ceased to take an interest in the 
musical life of Moscow. After his friend's death Tchai- 
kovsky was aware that everyone was waiting for him to 
decide whether he would take over Rubinstein's work. To 
accept this duty meant to abandon his career as a com- 


poser. There was no mental conflict, because he never 
hesitated for a moment in deciding that nothing in the 
world would make him give up his creative work. At 
the same time he felt so keenly the helpless position of the 
Conservatoire that he could not avoid some self-reproach ; 
and thus the calm so needful for composition was con- 
stantly disturbed. 

Another reason for his sadness was of a more intimate 
character. After many years of unclouded happiness, a 
time of severe trial had come to the numerous Davidov 
family, which was not without its influence upon Tchaikov- 
sky. Kamenka, formerly his refuge from all the tempests 
of life, was no longer so peaceful a harbour, because his 
ever-increasing attachment to his sister's family made him 
more sensible of their joys and sorrows. At this time the 
shadows prevailed, for Alexandra Ilinichna was confined 
to bed by a long and painful illness, which eventually 
ended in her death. 

Finally, Tchaikovsky suffered much at this time from 
the loss of his faithful servant Alexis Safronov, who had 
been in his service from 1873 to 1880, when he was called 
upon to serve his time in the army. 

Tchaikovsky spent most of September, 1881, in Moscow, 
in the society of his brother Anatol. This visit was com- 
paratively agreeable to him, because the greater part of 
Moscow society had not- yet returned from their summer 
holidays, and he felt free. 

He left Moscow on October ist (i3th). 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"KAMENKA, October %th (20^), 1881. 

" I inhabit the large house where my sister's family used 
to live, but at present there are no other human beings but 
myself and the woman who looks after me. I have laid 
myself out to complete the arrangements of Bortniansky's 
works for double chorus in a month. Good Lord, how I 


loathe Bortniansky ! Not himself, poor wretch, but his 
wishy-washy music ! Yet if I had not undertaken this 
work I should find myself in a bad way financially. Were 
I to tell you how much money I got through in Moscow, 
without knowing why or wherefore, you would be horrified 
and give me a good scolding. . . ." 

To P. Jurgenson. 

" KAMENKA, October nth (23^?), 1881. 

" DEAR FRIEND, I know you will laugh at me when you 
read this letter. . . . There is a young man here of eighteen 
or nineteen who is very clever and capable, but dislikes 
his present occupation because his domestic circumstances 
are miserable, and he longs for a wider sphere and experi- 
ence of life. He has the reputation of being honest and 
industrious, and knows something of the book-trade. . . . 
Could you make him useful in your publishing house, or in 
the country ? Dear friend, do look after him ! What can I 
do for him? This is 'my fate' over again. In any case 
I shall not abandon him, for I am sure he would come to 
grief here. 

" Laugh if you like, but have compassion and answer 
me." 1 

To Nadejda von Meek. 

" KIEV, November gth (2 is/), 1881. 

" Because I am deeply interested in Church music just 
now, I go to the churches here very frequently, especially 
to the ' Lavra.' 2 On Sunday the bishop celebrated ser- 
vices in the monasteries of Michael and the Brotherhood. 
The singing in these churches is celebrated, but I thought 
it very poor, and pretentious, with a repertory of common- 
place concert pieces. It is quite different in the ' Lavra/ 
where they sing in their own old style, following the 
traditions of a thousand years, without notes and without 
any attempts at concert- music. Nevertheless it is an 

1 P. Jurgenson took this young man into his business, where he remained 
some time. Like Tkachenko, he was nervous and peculiar, and gave Tchai- 
kovsky much trouble and anxiety. 

2 Monasteries of the first rank. 


original and grand style of sacred singing. The public 
think the music of the ' Lavra ' is bad, and are delighted 
with the sickly-sweet singing of other churches. This 
vexes and enrages me. It is difficult to be indifferent to 
the matter. My efforts to help our church music have 
been misunderstood. My Liturgy is forbidden. Two 
months ago the ecclesiastical authorities in Moscow re- 
fused to let it be sung at the memorial service for Nicholas 
Rubinstein. The Archbishop Ambrose pronounced it to 
be a Catholic service. . . . The authorities are pig-headed 
enough to keep every ray of light out of this sphere of 
darkness and ignorance. 

" To-morrow I hope to leave for Rome, where I expect 
to meet my brother Modeste." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ROME, November 26th (December 8M), 1881. 

" The day before yesterday I was at the concert in 
honour of Liszt's seventieth birthday. The programme 
consisted exclusively of his works. The performance was 
worse than mediocre. Liszt himself was present. It was 
touching to witness the ovation which the enthusiastic 
Italians accorded to the venerable genius, but Liszt's works 
leave me cold. They have more poetical intention than 
actual creative power, more colour than form in short, in 
spite of being externally effective, they are lacking in the 
deeper qualities. Liszt is just the opposite of Schumann, 
whose vast creative force is not in harmony with his 
colourless style of expression. At this concert an Italian 
celebrity played ; Sgambati is a very good pianist, but 
exceedingly cold." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ROME, November 2ith (December gtfi), 1881. 

" I cannot take your advice to publish my opera with 
a French title-page. Such advances to foreign nations are 
repugnant to me. Do not let us go to them, let them 
rather come to us. If they want our operas then not the 
title-page only, but the full text can be translated, as in 


the case of the proposed performance at Prague. So long 
as an opera has not crossed the Russian frontier, it is not 
necessary to my mind that it should be translated into 
the language of those who take no interest in it." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, December tfh (i6th}> 1881. 

"Yesterday I received sad news from Kamenka. In 
the neighbourhood lies a little wood, the goal of my daily 
walk. In the heart of the wood lives a forester with a 
large and lovable family. I never saw more beautiful 
children. I was particularly devoted to a little girl of four, 
who was very shy at first, but afterwards grew so friendly 
that she would caress me prettily, and chatter delightful 
nonsense, which was a great pleasure to me. Now my 
brother-in-law writes that this child and one of the others 
have died of diphtheria. The remaining children were 
removed to the village by his orders, but, he adds, c I fear it 
is too late.' Poor Russia ! Everything there is so de- 
pressing, and then this terrible scourge which carries off 
children by the thousand." 

The violin concerto was the only one of Tchaikovsky's 
works which received its first performance outside Russia. 
This exceptional occurrence took place in Vienna. The 
originality and difficulty of this composition prevented 
Leopold Auer, to whom it was originally dedicated, from 
appreciating its true worth, and he declined to produce it 
in St. Petersburg. 1 Two years passed after its publication, 
and still no one ventured to play it in public. The first to 
recognise its importance, and to conquer its difficulties, was 
Adolf Brodsky. A pupil of Hellmesberger's, he held a 
post at the Moscow Conservatoire for a time, but relin- 
quished it in the seventies in order to tour in Europe. For 
two years he considered the concerto without, as he 
himself says, being able to summon courage to learn it. 

1 Some years later Auer changed his opinion and became one of the most 
brilliant interpreters of this work. 


Finally, he threw himself into the work with fiery energy, 
and resolved to try his luck with it in Vienna. Hans 
Richter expressed a wish to make acquaintance with the 
new concerto, and finally it was included in the programme 
of one of the Philharmonic Concerts, December 4th, 1881. 
According to the critics, and Brodsky's own account, there 
was a noisy demonstration at the close of the performance, 
in which energetic applause mingled with equally forcible 
protest. The former sentiment prevailed, and Brodsky 
was recalled three times. From this it is evident that the 
ill-feeling was not directed against the executant, but 
against the work. The Press notices were very hostile. 
Out of ten criticisms, two only spoke quite sympathetically 
of the concerto. The rest, which emanated from the pens 
of the best-known musical critics, were extremely slashing. 
Hanslick, the author of the well-known book, On the 
Beautiful in Music, passed the following judgment upon 
this work : 

" Mozart's youthful work (the Divertimento] would have 
had a more favourable position had it been played after, 
instead of before, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto ; a drink 
of cold water is welcome to those who have just swallowed 
brandy. The violinist, A. Brodsky, was ill-advised to 
make his first appearance before the Viennese public with 
this work. The Russian composer, Tchaikovsky, certainly 
possesses no commonplace talent, but rather one which is 
forced, and which, labouring after genius, produces results 
which are tasteless and lacking in discrimination. Such 
examples as we have heard of his music (with the excep- 
tion of the flowing and piquant Quartet in D) offer a 
curious combination of originality and crudeness, of happy 
ideas and wretched affectations. This is also the case as 
regards his latest long and pretentious Violin Concerto. 
For a time it proceeds in a regular fashion, it is musical 
and not without inspiration, then crudeness gains the 
upper hand and reigns to the end of the first movement. 
The violin is no longer played, but rent asunder, beaten 
black and blue. Whether it is actually possible to give 


clear effect to these hair-raising difficulties 1 do not know, 
but I am sure Herr Brodsky in trying to do so made us 
suffer martyrdom as well as himself. The Adagio, with 
its tender Slavonic sadness, calmed and charmed us once 
more, but it breaks off suddenly, only to be followed by a 
finale which plunges us into the brutal, deplorable merri- 
ment of a Russian holiday carousal. We see savages, 
vulgar faces, hear coarse oaths and smell fusel-oil. Friedrich 
Fischer, describing lascivious paintings, once said there 
were pictures ' one could see stink.' Tchaikovsky's Violin 
Concerto brings us face to face for the first time with the 
revolting idea : May there not also be musical compositions 
which we can hear stink ? " 

Hanslick's criticism hurt Tchaikovsky's feelings very 
deeply. To his life's end he never forgot it, and knew it 
by heart, just as he remembered word for word one of 
Cui's criticisms dating from 1866. All the deeper and 
more intense therefore was his gratitude to Brodsky. This 
sentiment he expressed in a letter to the artist, and in the 
dedication of the Concerto he replaced Auer's name by 
that of Brodsky. 

While Tchaikovsky was touched by Brodsky's courage 
in bringing forward the Concerto, he was unable to sup- 
press his sense of injury at the attitude of his intimate 
friend Kotek, who weakly relinquished his original in- 
tention of introducing the work in St. Petersburg. Still 
more did he resent the conduct of Auer, who, he had 
reason to believe, not only declined to produce the Concerto 
himself, but advised Sauret not to play it in the Russian 

To N. F. von Meek. 

ROME, 1 88 1. 

" Do you know what I am writing just now ? You will 
be very much astonished. Do you remember how you 
once advised me to compose a trio for pianoforte, violin, 
and violoncello, and my reply, in which I frankly told you 
that I disliked this combination? Suddenly, in spite of 


this antipathy, I made up my mind to experiment in this 
form, which so far I have never attempted. The beginning 
of the trio is finished. Whether I shall carry it through, 
whether it will sound well, I do not know, but I should 
like to bring it to a happy termination. I hope you will 
believe me, when I say that I have only reconciled myself 
to the combination of piano and strings in the hope of 
giving you pleasure by this work. I will not conceal from 
you that I have had to do some violence to my feelings 
before I could bring myself to express my musical ideas in 
a new and unaccustomed form. I wish to conquer all diffi- 
culties, however ; and the thought of pleasing you impels 
me and encourages my efforts." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"ROME, December 22nd, 1881 (January $rd> 1882). 

" Things are well with me in the fullest sense of the 
word. . . . If everything were well in Russia, and I received 
good news from home, it would be impossible to conceive 
a better mode of life. But unhappily it is not so. Our 
dear, but pitiable, country is passing through a dark hour. 
A vague sense of unrest and dissatisfaction prevails 
throughout the land ; all seem to be walking at the 
edge of a volcanic crater, which may break forth at any 
moment. . . . 

"According to my ideas, now or never is the time to 
turn to the people for counsel and support ; to summon us 
all together and to let us consider in common such ways 
and means as may strengthen our hands. The Zemsky 
Sobor this is what Russia needs. From us the Tsar 
could learn the truth of things ; we could help him to 
suppress rebellion and make Russia a happy and united 
country. Perhaps I am a poor politician, and my remarks 
are very naive and inconsequential, but whenever I think 
the matter over, I see no other issue, and cannot under- 
stand why the same thought does not occur to him, in 
whose hands our salvation lies. Katkov, who describes 
all parliamentary discussions as talkee-talkee, and hates 
the words popular representation and constitution^ confuses 
the idea of the Zemsky Sabor, which was frequently sum- 


moned in old days when the Tsar stood in need of counsel, 
with the Parliaments and Chambers of Western Europe. 
A Zemsky Sobor is probably quite opposed to a constitu- 
tion in the European sense ; it is not so much a question 
of giving us at once a responsible Ministry, and the whole 
routine of English parliamentary procedure, as of revealing 
the true state of things, giving the Government the con- 
fidence of the people, and showing us some indication of 
where and how we are being led. 

" I had no intention of turning a letter to you into 
a political dissertation. Forgive me, dear friend, if I have 
bored you with it I only meant to tell you the Italian 
sun is beautiful, and I am enjoying the glory of the South ; 
but I live the life of my country, and cannot be completely 
at rest here so long as things are not right with us. Nor 
is the news I receive from my family in Russia very 
cheerful just now." 

To P.Jurgenson. 

" ROME, January tfh (i6/>), 1882. 

" This season I have no luck. The Maid of Orleans will 
not be given again ; Oniegin ditto ; Auer intrigues against 
the Violin Concerto ; no one plays the Pianoforte Concerto 
(the second) ; in short, things are bad. But what makes 
me furious, and hurts and mortifies me most, is the fact 
that the Direction, which would not spend a penny upon 
The Maid of Orleans, has granted 30,000 roubles for the 
mounting of Rimksy-Korsakov's Sniegourochka. Is it not 
equally unpleasant to you to feel that 'our subject' has 
been taken from us, and that Lei will now sing new music 
to the old words? It is as though someone had forcibly 
torn away a piece of myself and offered it to the public in 
a new and brilliant setting. I could cry with mortifica- 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" ROME, January \$th (2$th\ 1882. 

"The trio is finished. . . . Now I can say with some 
conviction that the work is not bad. But I am afraid, 
having written all my life for the orchestra, and only taken 

2 E 


late in life to chamber music, I may have failed to adapt 
the instrumental combinations to my musical thoughts. 
In short, I fear I may have arranged music of a symphonic 
character as a trio, instead of writing directly for my 
instruments. I have tried to avoid this, but I am not sure 
whether I have been successful." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"ROME, January i6th (28^), 1882. 

" I have just read the pamphlet you sent me (La Vtritt 
aux nihilistes) with great satisfaction, because it is written 
with warmth, and is full of sympathy for Russia and the 
Russians. I must observe that it is of no avail as an 
argument against Nihilism. The author speaks a language 
which the Nihilists cannot understand, since no moral 
persuasion could change a tiger into a lamb, or induce a 
New Zealand cannibal to love his neighbour in a true 
Christian spirit. A Nihilist, after reading the pamphlet, 
would probably say : ' Dear sir, we know already from 
innumerable newspapers, pamphlets, and books, all you 
tell us as to the uselessness of our murders and dynamite 
explosions. We are also aware that Louis XVI. was a 
good king, and Alexander II. a good Tsar, who emanci- 
pated the serfs. Nevertheless we shall remain assassins and 
dynamiters, because it is our vocation to murder and blow 
up, with the object of destroying the present order of 

" Have you read the last volume of Taine's work upon 
the Revolution ? No one has so admirably characterised 
the unreasoning crowd of anarchists and extreme revolu- 
tionists as he has done. Much of what he says respecting 
the French in 1793, of the degraded band of anarchists 
who perpetrated the most unheard-of crimes before the 
eyes of the nation, which was paralysed with astonishment, 
applies equally to the Nihilists. . . . The attempt to con- 
vince the Nihilists is useless. They must be exterminated ; 
there is no other remedy against this evil." 

At the end of January Tchaikovsky sent the Trio to 
Moscow with a request that it might be tried by Taneiev, 


Grjimali, and Fitzenhagen. His letter to Jurgenson con- 
cludes as follows : 

"The Trio is dedicated to Nicholas G. Rubinstein. It 
has a somewhat plaintive and funereal colouring. As it is 
dedicated to Rubinstein's memory it must appear in an 
edition de luxe. I beg Taneiev to keep fairly accurately to 
my metronome indications. I also wish him to be the first 
to bring out the Trio next season. . . ." 

To P. Jurgenson. 

"ROME, February 5/^(17^), 1882. 

" MY DEAR FRIEND, Your letters always bring me joy, 
comfort, and support. God knows I am not lying ! You 
are the one regular correspondent through whom I hear all 
that interests me in Moscow and I still love Moscow with 
a strange, keen affection. I say ' strange/ because in spite 
of my love for it I cannot live there. To analyse this 
psychological problem would lead me too far afield." 

To A. Tchaikovsky. 

"ROME, February ^th (19^), 1882. 

" Toly, my dearest, I have just received your letter with 
the details of your engagement. I am heartily glad you 
are happy, and I think I understand all you are feeling, 
although I never experienced it myself. There is a certain 
kind of yearning for tenderness and consolation that only 
a wife can satisfy. Sometimes I am overcome by an insane 
craving for the caress of a woman's touch. Sometimes I 
see a sympathetic woman in whose lap I could lay my 
head, whose hands I would gladly kiss. When you are 
quite calm again after your marriage read Anna 
Karenina, which I have read lately for the first time with 
an enthusiasm bordering on fanaticism (sic). What you are 
now feeling is there wonderfully expressed with reference 
to Levin's marriage." 


To P. Jurgenson. 

"NAPLES, February \\th (23^), 1882. 

"Are you not ashamed of trying to 'justify' yourself 
of the accusation brought against you by my protege 
Klimenko ? I know well enough that you cannot be un- 
just. I know, on the other hand, that Klimenko is a crazy 
fellow who loses his head over Nekrassov's poetry and 
vague echoes of Nihilism. Nevertheless he is not stupid, 
and it would be a pity to discharge him. I feel unless he 
can make himself an assured livelihood in Moscow he will 
do no good elsewhere. I beg you to be patient a little 
longer, in the hope he will come to himself, and see where 
his own interests lie." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"NAPLES, February i$th (25^), 1882. 

" What a blessing to feel oneself safe from visitors to 
be far from the noise of large hotels and the bustle of the 
town ! What an inexhaustible source of enjoyment to 
admire this incomparable view, which stretches in all its 
beauty before our windows ! All Naples, Vesuvius, Cas- 
tellammare, Sorrento, lie before us. At sunset yesterday it 
was so divinely beautiful that I shed tears of gratitude to 
God. ... I feel I shall not do much work in Naples. It 
is clearly evident that this town has contributed nothing 
to art or learning. To create a book, a picture, or an 
opera, it is necessary to become self- concentrated and 
oblivious of the outer world. Would that be possible 
in Naples? . . . 

" Even the sun has spots, therefore it is not surprising 
that our abode, about which I have been raving, should 
gradually reveal certain defects. I suffer from a shameful 
weakness : I am mortally afraid of mice. Imagine, dear 
friend, that even as I write to you, a whole army of mice 
are probably conducting their manoeuvres across the floor 
overhead. If a solitary one of their hosts strays into my 
room, I am condemned to a night of sleeplessness and 
torture. May Heaven protect me ! " 


Shortly afterwards, the landlord of this mouse-infested 
residence the Villa Postiglione turned out "an impudent 
thief," and Tchaikovsky, with his brother Modeste, returned 
to an hotel in the town. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"NAPLES, March ^th (19^), 1882. 

" To-day I finished my Vespers. ... It is very difficult 
to work in Naples. Not only do its beauties distract one, 
but there is also the nuisance of the organ grinders. These 
instruments are never silent for an instant, and sometimes 
drive me to desperation. Two or three are often being 
played at the same time; someone will also be singing, and 
the trumpets of the Bersaglieri in the neighbourhood go on 
unceasingly from 8 a.m. until midday. 

" In my leisure hours I have been reading a very interest- 
ing book, published recently, upon Bellini. It is written by 
his friend, the octogenarian Florimo. I have always been 
fond of Bellini. As a child I often cried under the strong 
impression made upon me by his beautiful melodies, which 
are impregnated with a kind of melancholy. I have re- 
mained faithful to his music, in spite of its many faults : 
the weak endings of his concerted numbers, the tasteless 
accompaniments, the roughness and vulgarity of his recita- 
tives. Florimo's book contains not only Bellini's life, but 
also his somewhat extensive correspondence. I began to 
read with great pleasure the biography of this composer, 
who for long years past had been surrounded in my imagi- 
nation with an aureole of poetical feeling. I had always 
thought of Bellini as a childlike, naive being, like Mozart. 
Alas ! I was doomed to disillusion. Bellini, in spite of 
his talent, was a very commonplace man. He lived in an 
atmosphere of self-worship, and was enchanted with every 
bar of his own music. He could not tolerate the least con- 
tradiction, and suspected enemies, intrigues, and envy in 
all directions ; although from beginning to end of his career 
success never left him for a single day. Judging from his 
letters, he loved no one, and, apart his own interests, nothing 
existed for him. It is strange that the author of the book 
does not seem to have observed that these letters show 


Bellini in a most unfavourable light, otherwise he would 
surely not have published them. Another book which I 
am enjoying just now is Melnikov's On the Hills. What 
an astonishing insight into Russian life, and what a calm 
objective attitude the author assumes to the numerous 
characters he has drawn in this novel ! Dissenters of various 
kinds (Rasskolniki), merchants, moujiks, aristocrats, monks 
and nuns all seem actually living as one reads. Each 
character acts and speaks, not in accordance with the 
author's views and convictions, but just as they would do 
in real life. In our day it is rare to meet with a book so 
free from ' purpose.' 

10 p.m. 

"... One thing spoils all my walks here the beggars, 
who not only beg, but display their wounds and deformities, 
which have a most unpleasant and painful effect upon me. 
But to sit at the window at home, to gaze upon the sea 
and Mount Vesuvius in the early morning, or at sunset, is 
such heavenly enjoyment that one can forgive and forget 
all the drawbacks of Naples." 

Tchaikovsky spent a few days at Sorrento before going 
to Florence, whence he returned to Moscow about the 
middle of April. 


To M. Tchaikovsky. 

"KAMENKA, May loth (22tid\ 1882. 

" Modi, I am writing at night with tears in my eyes. 
Do not be alarmed nothing dreadful has happened. 
I have just finished Bleak House, and shed a few tears, 
first, because I pity Lady Dedlock, and find it hard to 
tear myself away from all these characters with whom I 
have been living for two months (I began the book when 
I left Florence), and secondly, from gratitude that so great 
a writer as Dickens ever lived. ... I want to suggest to 
you a capital subject for a story. But I am tired, so I will 
leave it until to-morrow. 


" Subject for a Story. 

11 The tale should be told in the form of a diary, or letters 
to a friend in England. Miss L. comes to Russia. Every- 
thing appears to her strange and ridiculous. The family 
into which she has fallen please her especially the children 
but she cannot understand why the whole foundation of 
family life lacks the discipline, the sense of Christian duty, 
and the good bringing-up which prevail in English homes. 
She respects this family, but regards them as belonging to 
a different race, and the gulf between herself and them 
seems to grow wider. She draws into herself and remains 
there. Weariness and oppression possess her. The sense 
of duty, and the need of working for her family, keep her 
from despair. She is religious, in the English way, and 
finds the Russian Church, with its ritual, absurd and re- 
pugnant. Some of the family and their relations with her 
must be described in detail. 

" A new footman appears upon the scene. At first she 
does not notice him at all. One day, however, she becomes 
aware that he has looked at her in particular and love 
steals into her heart. At first she does not understand 
what has come over her. Why does she sympathise with 
him when he is working others have to work too ? Why 
does she feel so ill at ease when he waits on her ? Then 
the footman begins to make love to the laundrymaid. In 
her feeling of hatred for this girl she realises she is jealous, 
and discovers her love. She gives the man all the money 
she has saved to go on a journey for his health, etc. She 
begins to love everything Russian. . . . She changes her 
creed. The footman is dismissed for some fault. She 
struggles with herself but finally goes with him. One 
fine day he says to her : * Go to the devil and take your 
ugly face with you ! What do you want from me ? ' I 
really do not know how it all ends. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, May 2th (June loth), 1882. 
"... You ask me why I chose the subject of Mazeppa. 
About a year ago K. Davidov (Director of the Petersburg 


Conservatoire) passed on this libretto to me. It is arranged 
by Bourenin from Poushkin's poem Poltava. At that time 
it did not please me much, and although I tried to set a 
few scenes to music, I could not get up much enthusiasm, 
so put it aside. For a whole year I sought in vain for 
some other book, because the desire to compose another 
opera increased steadily. Then one day I took up the 
libretto of Mazeppa once more, read Poushkin's poem 
again, was carried away by some of the scenes and verses 
and set to work upon the scene between Maria and 
Mazeppa, which is taken without alteration from the 
original text. Although I have not experienced as yet 
any of the profound enjoyment I felt in composing 
Eugene Oniegin ; although the work progresses slowly and 
I am not much drawn to the characters I continue to 
work at it because I have started, and I believe I may be 
successful. As regards Charles XII. I must disappoint 
you, dear friend. He does not come into my opera, 
because he only played an unimportant part in the drama 
between Mazeppa, Maria, and Kochoubey.' 

The first symphony concert in the hall of the Art and 
Industrial Exhibition took place on May i8th (3<Dth), 1882, 
under the direction of Anton Rubinstein. On this occasion 
Taneiev played Tchaikovsky's Second Pianoforte Concerto 
for the first time in public. It was received with much 
applause, but it was difficult to determine whether this was 
intended for the composer, or the interpreter. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"GRANKINO, June ^th (2u/), 1882. 

" The quiet and freedom of this place delight me. This 
is true country life ! The walks are very monotonous ; 
there is nothing but the endless, level Steppe, The garden 
is large, and will be beautiful, but at present it is new. In 
the evening the Steppe is wonderful, and the air so ex- 
quisitely pure ; I cannot complain. The post only comes 
once a week, and there are no newspapers. One lives here 
in complete isolation from the world, and that has a great 


fascination for me. Sometimes I feel to a certain extent 
the sense of perfect contentment I used always to ex- 
perience in Brailov and Simaki. O God, how sad it is to 
think that those moments of inexpressible happiness will 
never return ! " l 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"GRANKINO, July $th (17^), 1882. 

" The news about Skobeliev only reached us a week 
after the sad catastrophe. It is long since any death has 
given me a greater shock than this. In view of the lament- 
able lack of men of mark in Russia, what a loss is this 
personality, on whom so many hopes depended ! " 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"KAMENKA, fuly 26th (August >jth\ 1882. 

" My sister has just returned from Carlsbad, having 
stopped at Prague on the way to hear my Maid of Orleans, 
or Panna Orleanska, as she is called there. It appears the 
opera was given in the barrack-like summer theatre, and 
both the performance and staging were very poor." 

This first appearance of one of Tchaikovsky's operas 
upon the stage of a West-European theatre passed almost 
unnoticed. The work had a succes cTestime and soon dis- 
appeared from the repertory of the Prague opera house. 
The Press were polite to the well-known symphonist 
Tchaikovsky, and considered that as regarded opera he 
deserved respect, sympathy, and interest, although he was 
not entitled to be called a dramatic composer "by the 
grace of God." 

The programme of the sixth symphony concert (August 
8th (20th) 1882) of the Art and Industrial Exhibition 
was made up entirely from the works of Tchaikovsky, 
and included : (i) The Tempest ; (2) Songs from Snie- 
gourochka ; (3) the Violin Concerto (with Brodsky as 

1 Nadejda von Meek had sold Brailov. 


soloist) ; (4) the Italian Capriccio ; (5) Songs ; (6) the 
Overture "1812." The last -mentioned work was now 
heard for the first time, and the Violin Concerto although 
it had already been played in Vienna, London, and New 
York for the first time in Russia. The success of these 
works, although considerable, did not equal that which has 
since been accorded them. Among many laudatory criti- 
cisms, one was couched in an entirely opposite spirit. 
Krouglikov said that the three movements of the Violin 
Concerto were so " somnolent and wearisome that one felt 
no desire to analyse it in detail." The "1812" Overture 
seemed to him " much ado about nothing." Finally, he 
felt himself obliged to state the "lamentable fact" that 
Tchaikovsky was "played out." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"Moscow, August i$th (27^), 1882. 

" DEAR MODI, I found your letter when I came home 
an hour ago ; but I have only just read it, because my 
mental condition was such that I had to collect myself 
first. What produces this terrible state ? I do not under- 
stand it myself. . . . Everything has tended to make 
to-day go pleasantly, and yet I am so depressed, and have 
suffered so intensely, that I might envy any beggar in the 
street. It all lies in the fact that life is impossible for me, 
except in the country or abroad. Why this is so, God 
knows but I am simply on the verge of insanity. 

"This undefinable, horrible, torturing malady, which 
declares itself in the fact that I cannot live a day, or an 
hour, in either of the Russian capitals without suffering, 
will perhaps be explained to me in some better world. . . . 
I often think that all my discontent springs from my own 
egoism, because 1 cannot sacrifice myself for others, even 
those who are near and dear to me. Then comes the com- 
forting thought that I should not be suffering martyrdom 
except that I regard it as a kind of duty to come here now 
and then, for the sake of the pleasure it gives others. The 
devil knows ! I only know this : that unattractive as 


Kamenka may be, I long for my corner there, as one longs 
for some inexpressible happiness. I hope to go there 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" KAMENKA, August 2$rd (September 4^), 1882. 

" DEAR, INCOMPARABLE FRIEND, How lovely it is here! 
How freely I breathe once more ! How delighted I am to 
see my dear room again ! How good to live once more as 
one pleases, not as others order ! How pleasant to work 
undisturbed, to read, to play, to walk, to be oneself, with- 
out having to play a different part a thousand times a 
day ! How insincere, how senseless, is social life ! " 



To N. F. von Meek. 
" KAMENKA, September i^th (26^), 1882. 

" Never has any important work given me such trouble 
as this opera (Mazeppd}. Perhaps it is the decadence of 
my powers, or have I become more severe in self-judg- 
ment? When I remember how I used to work, without 
the least strain, and knowing no such moments of doubt 
and uncertainty, I seem to be a totally different man. 
Formerly I wrote as easily, and as much in obedience to 
the law of nature, as a fish swims in water or a bird flies. 
Now I am like a man who carries a precious, but heavy, 
burden, and who must bear it to the last at any cost. I, 
too, shall bear mine to the end, but sometimes I fear my 
strength is broken and I shall be forced to cry halt ! " 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
" KAMENKA, September 2Qth (October 2nd), 1882. 

" I am writing on a true autumnal day. Since yesterday 
a fine rain has been falling like dust, the wind howls, the 


green things have been frost-bitten since last week yet 
I am not depressed. On the contrary, I enjoy it. It is 
only in this weather that I like Kamenka ; when it is fine, 
I always long to be elsewhere. 

" I have begun the instrumentation of the opera. The 
introduction, which depicts Mazeppa and the galloping 
horse, will sound very well ! . . ." 

To E. Napravnik. 
" KAMENKA, September 2\st (October $rd\ 1882. 

" Kamenskaya tells me that in case of the revival of 
The Maid of Orleans she would be glad to undertake 
the part again, if I would make the cuts, changes, and 
transpositions which you require. Apart from the fact 
that it is very desirable this opera should be repeated, and 
that I am prepared to make any sacrifice for this end, 
your advice alone is sufficient to make me undertake all 
that is necessary without hesitation. . . . Yet I must 
tell you frankly, nothing is more unpleasant than the 
changing of modulations, and the transposition of pieces 
which one is accustomed to think of in a particular 
tonality, and I should be very glad if the matter could be 
arranged without my personal concurrence. At the same 
time, I repeat that I am willing to do whatever you 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"KAMENKA, October 2vth (November u/), 1882. 

" The copy of the Trio which you sent me gave me 
the greatest pleasure. I think no other work of mine has 
appeared in such an irreproachable edition. The title- 
page delighted me by its exemplary simplicity." 

The Trio was given for the first time at one of the 
quartet evenings of the Musical Society in Moscow, 
October i8th (3Oth). Judging from the applause, the 
public was very much pleased with the work, but the 
critics were sparing in their praise. 


In a letter to the composer Taneiev says :< 

" I have studied your Trio for more than three weeks, 
and worked at it six hours a day. I ought long since to 
have written to you about this glorious work. I have 
never had greater pleasure in studying a new composi- 
tion. The majority of the musicians here are enchanted 
with the Trio. It also pleased the public. Hubert has 
received a number of letters asking that it may be 

To S. I. Taneiev. 
" KAMENKA, October 29/7* (November io//), 1882. 

" My best thanks for your letter, dear Serge Ivanovich. 
Your approval of my Trio gives me very great pleasure. 
In my eyes you are a great authority, and my artistic 
vanity is as much flattered by your praise, as it is in- 
sensible to the opinions of the Press, for experience has 
taught me to regard them with philosophical indiffer- 
ence. . . . 

" Mazeppa creeps along tortoise-fashion, although I 
work at it daily for several hours. I cannot understand 
why I am so changed in this respect. At first I feared it 
was the loss of power that comes with advancing years, 
but now I comfort myself with the thought that I have 
grown stricter in self-criticism and less self-confident. 
This is perhaps the reason why it now takes me three days 
to orchestrate a thing that I could formerly have finished 
in one." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, November yd(i$th\ 1882. 

"... I think if God grants me a long life I shall 
never again compose an opera. I do not say, with you 
and many others, that opera is an inferior form of musical 
art. On the contrary, uniting as it does so many elements 
which all serve the same end, it is perhaps the richest of 
musical forms. I think, however, that personally I am 
more inclined to symphonic music, at least I feel more 
free and independent when I have not to submit to the 
requirements and conditions of the stage." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
" KAMENKA, November \&th (22nd\ 1882. 
" Napravnik sends me word that The Maid of Orleans 
will be remounted in Prague, and Jurgenson writes that 
he would like to go there with me. I, too, would like to 
see my opera performed abroad. Very probably we shall 
go direct to Prague next week, and afterwards I shall 
return with him to Moscow, where I must see my 
brother. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" Moscow, November z$rd (December 5^), 1882. 

" I have made the acquaintance of Erdmannsdorfer, who 
has succeeded Nicholas Rubinstein as conductor of the 
Symphony Concerts. He is a very gifted man, and has 
taken the hearts of the musicians and the public by 
storm. The latter is so fickle : it received Erdmannsdorfer 
with such enthusiasm, one would think it valued him far 
more highly than Rubinstein, who never met with such 
warmth. Altogether Moscow is not only reconciled to the 
loss of Rubinstein, but seems determined to forget him. 

" I am torn to pieces as usual, so that I already feel like 
a martyr, as I always do in Moscow or Petersburg. It 
has gone to such lengths that to-day I feel quite ill with 
this insane existence, and I am thinking of taking flight." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"Moscow, December $th (i^tti) 1882. 

" To the many fatigues of the present time, one more 
has been added ; every day I have to sit for some hours to 
the painter Makovsky. The famous art collector, P. 
Tretiakov, commissioned him to paint my portrait, so 
that I could not very well refuse. You can fancy how 
wearisome it is to me to have to sit for hours, when I find 
even the minutes necessary for being photographed simply 
horrible. Nevertheless the portrait seems very successful. 1 

1 This portrait was one of the least successful of Makovsky's efforts. A 
far better portrait of the composer was made some years later by Kouznietsov. 
See frontispiece. 


I forget if I have already told you that at the last concert 
but one my Suite was given with great success. Erd- 
mannsdorfer proved a good conductor, although I think 
the Moscow Press and public greatly overrate his capabili- 
ties. . . . My work is not yet finished, so I shall hardly be 
able to leave before next week." 

Tchaikovsky left Moscow on December 28th (January 
9th, 1883), travelling by Berlin to Paris, where he met his 
brother Modeste, who was to accompany him to Italy. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BERLIN, December $ist, 1882 (January i2th, 1883). 
" I broke my journey to rest here. Yesterday Tristan 
and Isolde (which I had never seen) was being given at 
the Opera, so I decided to remain another day. The work 
does not give me any pleasure, although I am glad to 
have heard it, for it has done much to strengthen my 
previous views of Wagner, which until I had seen all his 
works performed I felt might not be well grounded. 
Briefly summed up, this is my opinion : in spite of his 
great creative gifts, in spite of his talents as a poet, and his 
extensive culture, Wagner's services to art and to opera 
in particular have only been of a negative kind. He 
has proved that the older forms of opera are lacking in 
all logical and aesthetic raison d'etre. But if we may no 
longer write opera on the old lines, are we obliged to write 
as Wagner does? I reply, Certainly not. To compel 
people to listen for four hours at a stretch to an endless 
symphony which, however rich in orchestral colour, is 
wanting in clearness and directness of thought ; to keep 
singers all these hours singing melodies which have no 
independent existence, but are merely notes that belong 
to this symphonic music (in spite of lying very high 
these notes are often lost in the thunder of the orchestra), 
this is certainly not the ideal at which contemporary 
musicians should aim. Wagner has transferred the centre 
of gravity from the stage to the orchestra, but this is an 
obvious absurdity, therefore his famous operatic reform 
viewed apart from its negative results amounts to 


nothing. As regards the dramatic interest of his operas, 
I find them very poor, often childishly naive. But I have 
never been quite so bored as with Tristan and Isolde. It 
is an endless void, without movement, without life, which 
cannot hold the spectator, or awaken in him any true 
sympathy for the characters on the stage. It was evident 
that the audience even though Germans were bored, 
but they applauded loudly after each act. How can this 
be explained ? Perhaps by a patriotic sympathy for the 
composer, who actually devoted his whole life to singing 
the praise of Germanism." 

To A. Merkling. 

"PARIS, January io// (22^), 1882. 

" I have seen a few interesting theatrical performances, 
among others Sardou's Fedora, in which Sarah Bernhardt 
played with arch-genius, and would have made the most 
poignant impression upon me if the play in which a 
clever but cold Frenchman censures our Russian customs 
were not so full of lies. I have finally come to the con- 
clusion that Sarah is really a woman of genius. 1 I also 
enjoyed Musset's play, On ne badine pas avec Vamour. 
After the theatre I go to a restaurant and drink punch (it 
is bitterly cold in Paris). . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" PARIS, January nth (23/73?), 1883. 

" I have just come from the Opera Comique, where I 
heard Le Nozze di Figaro. I should go every time it was 
given. I know my worship of Mozart astonishes you, 
dear friend. I, too, am often surprised that a broken 
man, sound neither in mind nor spirit, like myself, should 
still be able to enjoy Mozart, while I do not succumb to 
the depth and force of Beethoven, to the glow and passion 
of Schumann, nor the brilliance of Meyerbeer, Berlioz, 
and Wagner. Mozart is not oppressive or agitating. 
He captivates, delights and comforts me. To hear his 

1 It is interesting to know that this opinion was in direct opposition 
to that of Tourgeniev, who made some harsh criticisms upon the celebrated 
French actress. R. N. 


music is to feel one has accomplished some good action. 
It is difficult to say precisely wherein this good influence 
lies, but undoubtedly it is beneficial ; the longer I live and 
the better I know him, the more I love his music. 

"You ask why I never write anything for the harp. 
This instrument has a beautiful timbre, and adds greatly 
to the poetry of the orchestra. But it is not an inde- 
pendent instrument, because it has no melodic quality, and 
is only suitable for harmony. True, artists like Parish- 
Alvars have composed operatic fantasias for the harp, 
in which there are melodies ; but this is rather forced. 
Chords, arpeggios these form the restricted sphere of the 
harp, consequently it is only useful for accompaniments." 

Before Tchaikovsky left Moscow he had been approached 
by Alexeiev, the president of the local branch of the 
Russian Musical Society, with regard to the music to be 
given at the Coronation festivities, to take place in the 
spring of 1883. A chorus of 7,500 voices, selected from 
all the educational institutions in Moscow, was to greet 
the Emperor and Empress with the popular ' Slavsia/ from 
Glinka's opera, A Life for the Tsar. The arrangement of 
this chorus, with accompaniment for string orchestra, was 
confided to Tchaikovsky. In January he accomplished 
this somewhat uncongenial task, and sent it to Jurgenson 
with the following remarks : 

" There are only a few bars of ' original composition ' in 
the work, besides the third verse of the text, so if as you 
say I am to receive a fee from the city of Moscow, my 
account stands as below : 

" For the simplification of six- 
teen bars of choral and 
instrumental music, to be 
repeated three times . 3 r. 

" For the composition of eight 

connecting bars . t . iV 4 r. 

" For four additional lines to 
the third verse, at forty 
kopecks per line . . I r. 60 k. 

Total. . 8 r. 6ok. (i6/nj) 

2 F 


"This sum I present to the city of Moscow. Joking 
apart, it is absurd to speak of payment for such a work, 
and, to me, most unpleasant. These things should be 
done gratuitously, or not at all." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, February $th (i^th\ 1883. 

" I have not read Daudet's L'Evangeliste, although I 
have the book. I cannot conquer a certain prejudice ; it 
is not the author's fault, but all these sects, the Salvation 
Army and all the rest of them are antipathetic to me, 
and since in this volume Daudet (whom I like as much as 
you do) deals with a similar subject, I have no wish to 
read it. 

" As regards French music, I will make the following 
remarks in justification of my views. I do not rave about 
the music of the new French school as a whole, nor about 
each individual composer, so much as I admire the in- 
fluence of the novelty and freshness which are so clearly 
discernible in their music. What pleases me is their 
effort to be eclectic, their sense of proportion, their readi- 
ness to break with hard-and-fast routine, while keeping 
within the limits of musical grace. Here you do not find 
that ugliness in which some of our composers indulge, in 
the mistaken idea that originality consists in treading 
under foot all previous traditions of beauty. If we com- 
pare modern French music with what is being composed 
in Germany, we shall see that German music is in a state 
of decadence, and that apart from the eternal fluctuation 
between Mendelssohn and Schumann, or Liszt and Wag- 
ner, nothing is being done. In France, on the contrary, 
we hear much that is new and interesting, much that 
is fresh and forceful. OY course, Bizet stands head and 
shoulders above the rest, but there are also Massenet, 
Delibes, Guirand, Lalo, Godard, Saint-Saens. All these 
are men of talent, who cannot be compared with the dry 
routinier style of contemporary Germans." 


To P. Jurgenson. 

"PARIS, February 6th (i8M), 1883. 

"DEAR FRIEND, To-day I received a telegram from 
Bartsal, 1 asking if my Coronation Cantata is ready, and for 
what voices it is written. I am replying that I have never 
composed such a Cantata. Apparently it is some ab- 
surdity which does not demand serious attention, and 
yet I am really somewhat agitated. The matter stands as 
follows. Early in December I met an acquaintance whom 
I have regarded for many years as a commonplace fool. 
But this fool was suddenly put upon the Coronation Com- 
mission. One day, after lunch, he took me aside and 
inquired : ' I trust you are not a Nihilist ? ' I put on an 
air of surprise, and inquired why he had to ask such 
a question. * Because I think it would be an excellent 
thing if you were to compose something suitable for the 
Coronation something in a festival way something 
patriotic in short, write something. . . .' I replied that 
I should be very pleased to compose something, but I 
could not supply my own text, that would have to be 
commissioned from Maikov, or Polonsky, then I should be 
willing to write the music. Our conversation ended here. 
Afterwards I heard that this man was saying all over 
Petersburg that he had commissioned me to write a 
Cantata. I had forgotten the whole story until the tele- 
gram came this morning. I am afraid the story may now 
be grossly exaggerated, and the report be circulated that 
I refused to compose such a work. I ^ive you leave to 
use all possible means to have the matter put in the true 
light, and so to exonerate me." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February 2$th (March %th), 1883. 

"Henry VIII., by Saint-Saens, was recently given at 
the Grand Opera. I did not go, but, according to the 
papers, the work had no signal success. I am not sur- 
prised, for I know his other operas, Samson et Dalila, 

1 A. I. Bartsal, chief manager of the Imperial Opera, in Moscow. 


Etienne Marcel^ and La Princesse Jaune, and all three 
have strengthened my conviction, that Saint-Saens will 
never write a great dramatic work. Next week I will 
hear the opera, and tell you what I think of it. 

" In consequence of his death, Wagner is the hero of the 
hour with the Parisian public. At all three Sunday concerts 
(Pasdeloup, Colonne and Lamoureux) the programmes 
have been devoted to his works, with the greatest success. 
Curious people ! It is necessary to die in order to attract 
their attention. In consequence of the death of Flotow, 
there was a vacancy in the Academic des Beaux Arts. 
Gounod put me forward as one of the five candidates, but 
I did not attain to this honour. The majority of votes 
went to the Belgian composer Limnander." 


At this time two unexpected and arduous tasks fell to 
Tchaikovsky's lot. The city of Moscow commissioned 
him to write a march for a fete, to be given in honour of 
the Emperor in the Sokolniky Park, and the Coronation 
Committee sent him the libretto of a lengthy cantata, with 
a request that the music might be ready by the middle of 
April. These works he felt it his duty to undertake. For 
the march he declined any payment, for reasons which he 
revealed to Jurgenson, under strict pledges of secrecy. 
When, two years earlier, his financial situation had been 
so dark that he had undertaken the uncongenial task of 
editing the works of Bortniansky, he had, unknown to all 
his friends, applied for assistance to the Tsar. After the 
letter was written, he would gladly have destroyed it, but 
his servant had already taken it to the post. Some days 
later he received a donation of 3,000 roubles (300). He 
resolved to take the first opportunity of giving some 
return for this gift, and the Coronation March was the out- 
come of this mingled feeling of shame and gratitude. 


His projected journey to Italy was abandoned, and he 
decided to remain some weeks longer in Paris. 

To P. Jurgenson. 

"PARIS, March tfh (2ist\ 1883. 

" About the middle of August I received, in Moscow, 
the manuscript of the Vespers, with the Censor's corrections. 
You then requested me to carry out these corrections. 
I altered what was actually essential. As regards the rest, 
I sent you an explanation to be forwarded to the Censor. 
. . . What has become of it ? Either you have lost it, or 
the Censor is so obstinate and dense that one can do 
nothing with him. The absurdity is that I have not com- 
posed music to the words of the Vesper Service, but taken 
it from a book published by the Synodal Press. I have 
only harmonised the melodies as they stood in this book. 
... In short, I have improved everything that was capable 
of improvement I will not endure the caprices of a 
drivelling pedant. He can teach me nothing, and the 
Synodal book is more important than he is. I shall have 
to complain about him. There ... he has put me out for 
a whole day ! " 

To P. Jurgenson. 

"PARIS, April itfh (26^), 1883. 

" You reproach me because the pieces Rubinstein played 
belong to Bessel. 1 I am very sorry, but I must say in self- 
justification that had I had any suspicion twelve years 
ago that it would be the least deprivation to you not to 
possess anything of mine, I would on no account have 
been faithless to you. ... In those days I had no idea 
that I could wound your feelings by going to Bessel. Now 
I would give anything to get the pieces back again. A 
curious man Anton Rubinstein ! Why could he not pay 
some attention to these pieces ten years ago ? Why did 
he never play a note of my music then ? That would 
indeed have been a service ! I am grateful to him, even 
now, but it is a very different matter." 

1 Six pianoforte pieces, Op. 21. 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"PARIS, April \tfh (26th), 1883 

" (Thursday in Passion Week}. 

" DEAR MODI, I am writing in a cafe in the Avenue 
Wagram. This afternoon I felt a sudden desire to be if 
not actually in our church at least somewhere in its 
vicinity. I am so fond of the service for to-day. To hold 
the wax-taper and make little pellets of wax after each 
gospel ; at first, to feel a little impatient for the service to 
come to an end, and afterwards to feel sorry it is over ! 
But I arrived too late, only in time to meet the people 
coming out and hear them speak Russian." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PARIS, May $rd (\$th\ 1883. 

" Loewenson's article, with its flattering judgment of me, 
does not give me much pleasure. I do not like the repeti- 
tion of that long-established opinion that I am not a 
dramatic musician, and that I pander to the public. What 
does it mean to have dramatic capabilities ? Ap- 
parently Herr Loewenson is a Wagnerian, and believes 
Wagner to be a great master in this sphere. I consider 
him just the reverse. Wagner has genius, but he certainly 
does not understand the art of writing for the stage with 
breadth and simplicity, keeping the orchestra within 
bounds, so that it does not reduce the singers to mere 
speaking puppets. As to his assertion that I aim at effects 
to catch the taste of the great public, I can plead not 
guilty with a clear conscience. I have always written, 
and always shall write, with feeling and sincerity, never 
troubling myself as to what the public would think of my 
work. At the moment of composing, when I am aglow 
with emotion, it flashes across my mind that all who will 
hear the music will experience some reflection of what I 
am feeling myself. Then I think of someone whose interest 
I value like yourself, for instance but I have never 
deliberately tried to lower myself to the vulgar require- 
ments of the crowd. If opera attracts me from time to 
time, it signifies that I have as much capacity for this as 


for any other form. If I have had many failures in this 
branch of music, it only proves that I am a long way 
from perfection, and make the same mistakes in my operas 
as in my symphonic and chamber music, among which 
there are many unsuccessful compositions. If I live a few 
years longer, perhaps I may see my Maid of Orleans 
suitably interpreted, or my Mazeppa studied and staged as 
it should be ; and then possibly people may cease to say 
that I am incapable of writing a good opera. At the 
same time, I know how difficult it will be to conquer this 
prejudice against me as an operatic composer. This is 
carried to such lengths that Herr Loewenson, who knows 
nothing whatever of my new work, declares it will be a 
useless sacrifice to the Moloch of opera. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"BERLIN, May \2th (24^), 1883. 

"... A report has been circulated in many of the 
Paris papers that Rubinstein had refused to compose a 
Coronation Cantata because he was not in sympathy with 
the central figure of the festivities. As Rubinstein's 
children are being educated in Russia, and this might be 
prejudicial to his interests for even the most baseless 
falsehood always leaves some trace behind it I sent a 
brief dementi to the Gaulois the day I left Paris. I cannot 
say if it will be published. 1 

" To-day Lohengrin is being given. I consider it 
Wagner's best work, and shall probably go to the per- 
formance. To-morrow I leave for Petersburg." 

In April, 1883, Eugene Oniegin was heard for the first 
time in St. Petersburg, when it was performed by the 
Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society in the hall of the 
Nobles' Club. It was coolly received, and the performance 
made so little impression that it was almost ignored 
by the Press. Soloviev, alone, wrote an article of some 
length in the St. Petersburg Viedomosti, in which he 
said : 

1 The letter appeared on May 23rd (June 4th), 1883. 


"Tchaikovsky's opera apart from the libretto and 
stage effects contains much that is musically attractive. 
Had the composer paid more attention to Poushkin's 
words and shown greater appreciation of their beauty ; 
had he grasped the simplicity and naturalness of Poushkin's 
forms the opera would have been successful. Having 
failed in these requirements, it is not surprising that the 
public received the work coldly. . . ." 

Nevertheless the opera survived several performances. 
The lack of success apart from the quality of the music, 
which never at any time aroused noisy demonstrations of 
applause must be attributed to the performance, which 
was excellent for amateurs, but still left much to be 
desired from the artistic point of view. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PETERSBURG, May z^th (June $th\ 1883. 

" I hear the Cantata was admirably sung and won the 
Emperor's approval." 

To N, F. von Meek. 

11 PODOUSHKINO, June i$th (27^), 1883. 

" In my youth I often felt indignant at the apparent 
injustice with which Providence dealt out happiness and 
misfortune to mankind. Gradually I have come to the 
conviction that from our limited, earthly point of view 
we cannot possibly comprehend the aims and ends 
towards which God guides us on our way through life. 
Our sufferings and deprivations are not sent blindly and 
fortuitously ; they are needful for our good, and although 
the good may seem very far away, some day we shall 
realise this. Experience has taught me that suffering and 
bitterness are frequently for our good, even in this life. 
But after this life perhaps there is another, and although 
my intellect cannot conceive what form it may take my 
heart and my instinct, which revolt from death in the sense 
of complete annihilation, compel me to believe in it. 


Perhaps we may then understand the things which now 
appear to us harsh and unjust. Meanwhile, we can only 
pray, and thank God when He sends us happiness, and 
submit when misfortune overtakes us, or those who are 
near and dear to us. I thank God who has given me 
this conviction. Without it life would be a grievous 
burden. Did I not know that you, the best of human 
beings, and above all deserving of happiness, were suffer- 
ing so much, not through an insensate blow aimed by 
a blind destiny, but for some divine end which my limited 
reason cannot discern then, indeed, there would remain 
for me in life nothing but despair and loathing. I have 
learnt not to murmur against God, but to pray to Him for 
all who are dear to me." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

" PoDOUSHKiNO, 1 July yd(\$tK)) 1883. 
" My incapacity for measuring time correctly is really 
astonishing ! I believed I should find leisure this summer 
for everything for reading, correspondence, walks ; and 
suddenly I realise that from morning to night I am tor- 
mented with the thought that I have not got through 
all there was to do. . . . Added to which, instead of 
resting from composition, I have taken it into my head to 
write a Suite. Inspiration will not come ; every day 
I begin something and lose heart. Then, instead of 
waiting for inspiration, I begin to be afraid lest I am 
played out, with the result that I am thoroughly dis- 
satisfied with myself. And yet the conditions of life are 
satisfactory : wonderful scenery and the society of those I 
love. . . ." 

During this visit to Podoushkino, Tchaikovsky wrote to 
Jurgenson concerning their business relations. Actually, 
this connection remained unbroken to the end of the 
composer's life, but at this moment it suffered a temporary 
strain. Tchaikovsky acknowledged that his publisher 
had often been most generous in his payments, but as 

1 From Petersburg Tchaikovsky went on a visit to his brother Anatol, 
who had taken summer quarters at Podoushkino, near Moscow. 


regards his new opera Mazeppa he felt aggrieved at 
the small remuneration proposed by Jurgenson. . This 
work, he said, ought, logically speaking, to be worth 
ten times as much as ten songs, or ten indifferent 
pianoforte pieces. He valued it at 2,400 roubles (240). 
On the other hand, he asked no fee for his Coronation 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" PODOUSHKINO, August loth (22tld\ 1883. 

" Yesterday a council was held by the Opera Direction 
to consider the staging of Mazeppa. Everyone con- 
nected with the Opera House was present. I was 
astonished at the zeal I may say enthusiasm which they 
showed for my opera. Formerly what trouble I had to 
get an opera accepted and performed ! Now, without any 
advances on my part, Petersburg and Moscow contend 
for my work. I was told yesterday that the direction 
at St. Petersburg had sent the scenic artist Bocharov 
to Little Russia, in order to study on the spot the moon- 
light effect in the last act of Mazeppa. I cannot under- 
stand the reason of such attentions on the part of the 
theatrical world there must be some secret cause for 
it, and I can only surmise that the Emperor himself must 
have expressed a wish that my opera should be given as 
well as possible in both capitals. 1 

" The corrections are now complete, and I am sending 
you the first printed copy. Dear friend, now I must 
take a little rest from composition, and lie fallow for a 
time. But the cacoethes scribendi possesses me, and all my 
leisure hours are devoted to a Suite. I hope to finish it in 
a day or two, and set to work upon the instrumentation at 

" My health is better. I have gone through such a 
terrible attack of nervous headache, I thought I must have 
died. I fell asleep so worn out, I had not even strength 
to undress. When I awoke I was well." 

1 This agreeable change in the attitude of the authorities towards Tchai- 
kovsky was due to the influence of I. Vsievolojsky, who had recently been 
appointed Director of the Opera House. 




To N. F. von Meek. 
" VERBOVKA, September loth (22nd\ 1883. 

" With regard to my opera, you have picked out at 
first sight the numbers I consider the best. The scene 
between Mazeppa and Maria will, thanks to Poushkin's 
magnificent verses, produce an effect even off the stage. 
It is a pity you will not be able to see a performance of 
Mazeppa. Allow me, dear friend, to point out other parts 
of the opera which can easily be studied from the piano- 
forte score: In Act I. (i), the duet between Maria and 
Andrew; (2), Mazeppa's arioso. Act II. (i), the prison 
scene; (2), Maria's scene with her mother. Act III., the 
last duet." 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 

"VERBOVKA, September \zth (24^), 1883. 

"... I bought Glazounov's Quartet in Kiev, and was 
pleasantly surprised. In spite of the imitations of Korsa- 
kov, in spite of the tiresome way he has of contenting 
himself with the endless repetition of an idea, instead of 
its development, in spite of the neglect of melody and the 
pursuit of all kinds of harmonic eccentricities the com- 
poser has undeniable talent. The form is so perfect, it 
astonishes me, and I suppose his teacher helped him in 
this. I recommend you to buy the Quartet and play it 
for four hands. I have also Cui's opera, The Prisoner of 
the Caucasus. This is utterly insignificant, weak, and 
childishly naive. It is most remarkable that a critic who 
has contended throughout his days against routine, should 
now, in the evening of his life, write a work so shamefully 


To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
" VERBOVKA, September igth (October ist\ 1883. 

"... On my arrival here I found a parcel from Tkat- 
chenko at Poltava. It contained all my letters to him. 
As on a former occasion, when he thought of committing 
suicide, he sent me back two of my letters, I understood 
at once that he wished by this means to intimate his 
immediate intention of putting an end to his existence. 
At first I was somewhat agitated ; then I calmed myself 
with the reflection that my Tkatchenko was certainly still 
in this world. In fact, to-day I received a letter from him 
asking for money, but without a word about my letters. 
His, as usual, is couched in a scornful tone. He is a man 
to be pitied, but not at all sympathetic." l 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 
"VERBOVKA, September 26th (October 8tf), 1883. 

" My Suite progresses slowly ; but it seems likely to be 
successful. I am almost sure the Scherzo (with the Har- 
monica) and the Andante ('Children's Dreams') will please. 
My enthusiasm for Judith has made way for a passion 
for Carmen. I have also been playing Rimsky-Korsakov's 
Night in May> not without some enjoyment." 

To Frau von Meek. 
"VERBOVKA, September 2%th (October 10^), 1883. 

" I will tell you frankly, dear friend, that, although I 
gladly hear some operas and even compose them myself 
your somewhat paradoxical view of the untenability 
of operatic music pleases me all the same. Leo Tolstoi 
says the same with regard to opera, and strongly advised 
me to give up the pursuit of theatrical success. In Peace 
and War he makes his heroine express great astonishment 
and dissatisfaction with the falseness and limitations of 
operatic action. Anyone who, like yourself, does not live 
in society and is not therefore trammelled by its conven- 

1 This was the end of all relations between Tchaikovsky and Tkatchenko. 


tions, or who, like Tolstoi, has lived for years in a village, 
and only been occupied with domestic events, literature, 
and educational questions, must naturally feel more in- 
tensely than others the complete falseness of Opera. I, 
too, when I am writing an opera feel so constrained and 
fettered that I often think I will never compose another. 
Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that many beautiful 
things of the first order belong to the sphere of dramatic 
music, and that the men who wrote them were directly 
inspired by the dramatic ideas. Were there no such thing 
as opera, there would be no Don Juan, no Figaro, no 
Russian and Lioudmilla. Of course, from the point of 
view of the sane mind, it is senseless for people on the 
stage which should reflect reality to sing instead of 
speaking. People have got used to this absurdity, how- 
ever, and when I hear the sextet in Don Giovanni I never 
think that what is taking place before me is subversive of 
the requirements of artistic truth. I simply enjoy the 
music, and admire the astonishing art of Mozart, who 
knew how to give each of the six voices its own special 
character, and has outlined each personality so sharply 
that, forgetful of the lack of absolute truth, I marvel at the 
depth of conditional truth, and my intellect is silenced. 

" You tell me, dear friend, that in my Eugene Oniegin 
the musical pattern is more beautiful than the canvas on 
which it is worked. I must say, however, that if my music 
to Eugene Oniegin has the qualities of warmth and poetic 
feeling, it is because my own emotions were quickened by 
the beauty of the subject. I think it is altogether unjust 
to see nothing beautiful in Poushkin's poem but the versi- 
fication. Tatiana is not merely a provincial ' Miss/ who 
falls in love with a dandy from the capital. She is a 
young and virginal being, untouched as yet by the realities 
of life, a creature of pure feminine beauty, a dreamy 
nature, ever seeking some vague ideal, and striving pas- 
sionately to grasp it. So long as she finds nothing that 
resembles an ideal, she remains unsatisfied but tranquil. 
It needs only the appearance of a man who at least 
externally stands out from the commonplace surround- 
ings in which she lives, and at once she imagines her ideal 
has come, and in her passion becomes oblivious of self. 


Poushkin has portrayed the power of this virginal love 
with such genius that even in my childhood it touched 
me to the quick. If the fire of inspiration really burned 
within me when I composed the ' Letter Scene/ it was 
Poushkin who kindled it ; and I frankly confess, without 
false modesty, that I should be proud and happy if my 
music reflected only a tenth part of the beauty contained 
in the poem. In the ' Duel Scene ' I see something far 
more significant than you do. Is it not highly dramatic 
and touching that a youth so brilliant and gifted (as 
Lensky) should lose his life because he has come into 
fatal collision with a false code of mundane ' honour ' ? 
Could there be a more dramatic situation than that in 
which that ' lion ' of town-life (Oniegin), partly from sheer 
boredom, partly from petty annoyance, but without pur- 
pose led by a fatal chain of circumstances shoots a 
young man to whom he is really attached ? All this is 
very simple, very ordinary, if you like, but poetry and the 
drama do not exclude matters of simple, everyday life." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"KAMENKA, October nth (2yd), 1883. 

" My work is nearly finished. Consequently, so long as I 
have no fresh composition in view, I can quietly enjoy this 
glorious autumn weather. 

"My Suite has five movements: (i) Jeux de sons, (2) 
Valse, (3) Scherzo burlesque, (4) Reves d'enfants, (5) 
Danse baroque." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

11 October 2$th (November 6th), 1883. 

" Every time I finish a work I think rapturously of a 
season of complete idleness. But nothing ever comes 
of it ; scarcely has the holiday begun, before I weary of 
idleness and plan a new work. This, in turn, takes such 
a hold on me that I immediately begin again to rush 
through it with unnecessary haste. It seems my lot to be 
always hurrying to finish something. I know this is 
equally bad for my nerves and my work, but I cannot 
control myself. I only rest when I am on a journey; 


that is why travelling has such a beneficial effect on my 
health. Probably I shall never settle anywhere, but lead 
a nomadic existence to the end of my days. Just now I 
am composing an album of 'Children's Songs/ an idea 
I have long purposed carrying out. It is very pleasant 
work, and I think the little songs will have a great 

To Frau von Meek. 

"KAMENKA, November \st (13^), 1883. 

" I should feel quite happy and contented here, were 
it not for the morbid, restless need of hurrying on my 
work, which tires me dreadfully, without being in the least 
necessary. . . . 

" I had a fancy to renew my study of English. This 
would be harmless, were I content to devote my leisure 
hours quietly to the work. But no : here again, I am 
devoured by impatience to master enough English to read 
Dickens easily, and I devote so many hours a day to this 
occupation that, with the exception of breakfast, dinner, 
and the necessary walk, I literally spend every minute 
in hurrying madly to the end of something. This is 
certainly a disease. Happily, this feverish activity will 
soon come to an end, as my summons to the rehearsals in 
Moscow will shortly be due." 


Towards the end of November Tchaikovsky left Ka- 
menka for Moscow, where, after a lapse of sixteen years, 
his First Symphony was given at a concert of the Musical 
Society. He was greatly annoyed to find that the pre- 
parations for Mazeppa were proceeding with exasperating 
slowness. " It is always the way with a State theatre," he 
wrote at this time to Nadejda von Meek. " Much pro- 
mised, little performed." While at Moscow, he played his 
new Suite to some of the leading musicians, who highly 
approved of the work. 


A few days later he went to meet Modeste in Peters- 
burg. He left the dry cold of a beautiful Russian winter 
in Moscow, and found the more northern capital snowless, 
but windy, chilly, and " so dark in the morning that even 
near the window I can hardly see to write." 

The journeys to and fro involved by the business con- 
nected with Mazeppa, and all the other difficulties he had 
to encounter in connection with it, were very irksome to 
Tchaikovsky. At this time he vowed never to write 
another opera, since it involved the sacrifice of so much 
time and freedom. 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" Moscow, December nth (zyd\ 1883. 

" How can you think me capable of taking offence at 
anything you may say, especially with regard to my 
music? I cannot always agree with you, but to be offended 
because your views are not mine would be impossible. On 
the contrary, I am invariably touched by the warmth with 
which you speak of my compositions, and the originality 
and independence of your judgment pleased me from the 
first. For instance, I am glad that, in spite of my having 
composed six operas, when you compare Opera with 
Symphony or Chamber music, you do not hesitate to 
speak of it as a lower form of art. In my heart I have 
felt the same, and intend henceforth to renounce operatic 
music ; although you must acknowledge opera possesses 
the advantage of touching the musical feeling of the 
masses ; whereas symphony appeals only to a smaller, if 
more select, public. . . ." 

Christmas and the New Year found Tchaikovsky still in 
Moscow, awaiting the rehearsals for Mazeppa. As usual, 
when circumstances detained him for any length of time 
in town, he suffered under the social gaieties which he had 
not the strength of will to decline. Laroche was staying 
in the same hotel as Tchaikovsky, and was in a hypochon- 
driacal condition. " He needs a nurse" says Tchaikovsky 


in one of his letters, "and I have undertaken the part, 
having no work on hand just now. When I depart, he 
will relapse into the same apathetic state." 

At last, on January I5th (27th), the rehearsals for the 
opera began, and with them a period of feverish excite- 
ment. The preparations for Mazeppa had been so long 
postponed that they now coincided with the staging of the 
work in Petersburg. Tchaikovsky declined the invitation 
to be present at the rehearsals there, feeling he could 
safely entrust his opera to the experienced supervision of 

The first performance of Mazeppa in Moscow took place 
on February 3rd (iSth), under the direction of H. Altani. 
The house was crowded and brilliant. The audience was 
favourably disposed towards the composer, and showed it 
by unanimous recalls for him and for the performers. 
Nevertheless, Tchaikovsky felt instinctively that the 
ovations were accorded to him personally, and to such 
of the singers who were favourites with the public, rather 
than to the opera itself. The ultimate fate of Mazeppa, 
which attracted a full house on several occasions, but only 
kept its place in the repertory for a couple of seasons, 
confirmed this impression. The failure may be attributed 
in some degree to the quality of the performance. Some 
of the singers had no voices, and those who were gifted in 
this respect lacked the necessary musical and histrionic 
training, so that not one number of the opera was rightly 
interpreted. Only the chorus was irreproachable. As 
regards the scenery and dresses, no opera had ever been 
so brilliantly staged. The Moscow critics were fairly in- 
dulgent to the opera and to its composer. To Nadejda von 
Meek, Tchaikovsky wrote : " The opera was successful in 
the sense that the singers and myself received ovations. . . . 
I cannot attempt to tell you what I went through that 
day. I was nearly crazed with excitement." 

2 G 


To E. Pavlovskaya. 1 

"Moscow, February tfh (i6th\ 1884. 

you heartily, incomparable Maria, for your indescribably 
beautiful performance of this part. God give you happi- 
ness and success. I shall never forget the deep impression 
made upon me by your splendid talent." 

After informing a few friends of his intended journey 
amongst them Erdmannsdorfer Tchaikovsky left Moscow 
just at the moment when the public had gathered in the 
Concert Hall to hear his new Suite. 

The Suite (No. 2 in C) had such a genuine and undis- 
puted success under Erdmannsdorfer's excellent direction 
on February 4th (i6th), that it had to be repeated by 
general request at the next symphony concert, a week 
later. The Press was unanimous in its enthusiasm, and 
even the severe Krouglikov was moved to lavish and un- 
conditional praise. 

The Petersburg performance of Mazeppa, under Naprav- 
nik, took place on February 7th (iQth). The absence of 
the composer naturally lessened its immediate success, 
but the impression was essentially the same as in Moscow: 
the opera obtained a mere succes d'estime. As regards 
acting, the performance of the chief parts (Mazeppa and 
Maria) was far less effective than at its original production. 
On the other hand, the staging and costumes excelled in 
historical fidelity and brillancy even those of the Moscow 
performance. Comparing the reception of Mazeppa in the 
two capitals, we must award the palm to the Petersburg 
critics for the unanimity with which they " damned " the 

1 The singer who created the part of Maria in the Moscow performance 
of Mazepfa. 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"BERLIN, February ^th (19^), 1884. 

"Early this morning I received a telegram from 
Modeste, who informs me that the performance of Ma- 
zeppa in Petersburg yesterday was a complete success, and 
that the Emperor remained to the end and was much 
pleased. 1 To morrow I continue my journey to Paris and 
from thence to Italy, where I might possibly join Kolya 
and Anna, 2 unless I should disturb their tete-a-tete. I 
dread being alone. . . ." 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 
"PARIS, February iS/ti (March \st\ 1884. 

" Modi, I can well imagine how difficult it must have 
been for you to lie to me as to the 'grand succes* of 
Mazeppa in Petersburg. But you did well to tell a lie, for 
the truth would have been too great a blow, had I not 
been prepared for it by various indications. Only yester- 
day did I learn the worst in a letter from Jurgenson, who 
not only had the cruelty to blurt out the plain truth, but 
also to reproach me for not having gone to Petersburg. 
It came as a thunderbolt upon me, and all day I suffered, 
as though some dreadful catastrophe had taken place. Of 
course, this is exaggeration, but at my age, when one has 
nothing more to hope in the future, a slight failure assumes 
the dimensions of a shameful fiasco. Were I different, 
could I have forced myself to go to Petersburg, no doubt 
I should have returned crowned with laurel wreaths. . . ." 

To P. Jurgenson. 
"PARIS, February rtth (March ist), 1884. 

" It is an old truth that no pne can hurt so cruelly as a 
dear friend. Your reproach is very bitter. Do you not 
understand that I know better than anyone else how 

1 On account of Tchaikovsky's nervous condition the account of the success 
of Mazeppa was slightly overdrawn. 

2 Nicholas and Anna von Meek, nte Davidov (Tchaikovsky's niece), who 
were on their wedding tour. 


much I lose, and how greatly I injure my own success, by 
my unhappy temperament? As a card-sharper, who has 
cheated all his life, lifts his hand against the man who has 
made him realise what he is, so nothing makes me so 
angry as the phrase : ' You have only yourself to blame.' 
It is true in this case ; but can I help being what I am ? 
The comparative failure of Mazeppa in Petersburg, of 
which your letter informed me, has wounded me deeply 
very deeply. I am in a mood of darkest despair." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February 2*]th (March ioth) t 1884. 

" You have justly observed that the Parisians have 
become Wagnerites. But in their enthusiasm for Wagner, 
which is carried so far that they neglect even Berlioz 
who, a few years ago, was the idol of the Paris public 
there is something insincere, artificial, and without any 
real foundation. I cannot believe that Tristan and Isolde, 
which is so intolerably wearisome on the stage, could ever 
charm the Parisians. ... It would not surprise me that 
such excellent operas as Lohengrin, Tannhauser, and the 
Flying Dutchman should remain in the repertory. These, 
originating from a composer of the first rank, must sooner 
or later become of general interest. The operas of the 
later period, on the contrary, are false in principle ; they 
renounce artistic simplicity and veracity, and can only live 
in Germany, where Wagner's name has become the watch- 
word of German patriotism. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PARIS, February 2<)th (March \2th\ 1884. 

"... Napravnik writes that the Emperor was much 
astonished at my absence from the first performance of 
Mazeppa, and that he showed great interest in my music ; 
he has also commanded a performance of Eugene Oniegzn, 
his favourite opera. Napravnik thinks I must not fail 
to go to Petersburg to be presented to the Emperor. 
I feel if I neglect to do this I shall be worried by the 
thought that the Emperor might consider me ungrateful, 
and so I have decided to start at once. It is very hard, 


and I have to make a great effort to give up the chance of 
a holiday in the country and begin again with fresh 
excitements. But it has to be done." 


The official command to appear before their Imperial 
Majesties was due to the fact that on February 2$rd 
(March 6th), 1884, the order of St. Vladimir of the Fourth 
Class had been conferred upon Tchaikovsky. The pre- 
sentation took place on March 7th (iQth), at Gatchina. 
Tchaikovsky was so agitated beforehand that he had 
to take several, strong doses of bromide in order to regain 
his self-possession. The last dose was actually swallowed 
on the threshold of the room where the Empress was 
awaiting him, in agony lest he should lose consciousness 
from sheer nervous breakdown. 

To Anatol Tchaikovsky. 
"PETERSBURG, March loth (22^^), 1884. 

" I will give you a brief account of what took place. 
Last Saturday I was taken with a severe chill. By 
morning I felt better, but I was terribly nervous at the 
idea of being presented to the Emperor and Empress. 
On Monday at ten o'clock I went to Gatchina. I had 
only permission to appear before His Majesty, but Prince 
Vladimir Obolensky had also arranged an audience with 
the Empress, who had frequently expressed a wish to see 
me. I was first presented to the Emperor and then to 
the Empress. Both were most friendly and kind. I think 
it is only necessary to look once into the Emperor's eyes, 
in order to remain for ever his most loyal adherent, for it 
is difficult to express in words all the charm and sympathy 
of his manner. She is also bewitching. Afterwards I 
had to visit the Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaevich, 
and yesterday I sat with him in the Imperial box during 
the whole of the rehearsal at the Conservatoire." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"PETERSBURG, March \$th (25^), 1884. 

" What a madman I am ! How easily I am affected 
by the least shadow of ill-luck ! Now I am ashamed of 
the depression which came over me in Paris, simply 
because I gathered from the newspapers that the per- 
formance of Mazeppa in Petersburg had not really had the 
success I anticipated ! Now I see that in spite of the 
ill-feeling of many local musicians, in spite of the wretched 
performance, the opera really pleased, and there is no 
question of reproach, as I feared while I was so far away. 
There is no doubt that the critics, who unanimously strove 
to drag my poor opera through the mire, were not express- 
ing the universal opinion, and that many people here are 
well disposed towards me. What pleases me most is the 
fact that the Emperor himself stands at the head of this 
friendly section. It turns out that I have no right to 
complain ; on the contrary, I ought rather to thank God, 
who has shown me such favour. 

" Have you seen Count Leo Tolstoi's Confessions, which 
were to have come out recently in the Russkaya Myssl 
(' Russian Thought '), but were withdrawn by order of the 
Censor ? They have been privately circulated in manu- 
script, and I have just succeeded in reading them. They 
made a profound impression upon me, because I, too, 
know the torments of doubt and the tragic perplexity 
which Tolstoi has experienced and described so wonder- 
fully in the Confessions. But enlightenment came to me 
earlier than Tolstoi ; perhaps because my brain is more 
simply organised than his ; and perhaps it has been due 
to the continual necessity of work that I have suffered 
less than Tolstoi. Every day, every hour, I thank God 
for having given me this faith in Him. What would have 
become of me, with my cowardice, my capacity for de- 
pression, and at the least failure of courage my desire 
for non-existence, unless I had been able to believe in God 
and submit to His will ? " 

About the end of the seventies Tchaikovsky kept an 
accurate diary. Ten years later he relaxed the habit, and 


only made entries in his day-book while abroad, or on 
important occasions. Two years before his death the 
composer burnt most of these volumes, including all those 
which covered the years between his journeys abroad in 
1873 an< 3 April, 1884. 
The following are a few entries from the later diaries : 

"April \$th (25^), 1884. 

"... After tea I went to Leo's, 1 who soon went out, while 
I remained to strum and think of something new. I hit 
upon an idea for a pianoforte Concerto [afterwards the 
Fantasia for pianoforte, op. 56], but it is poor and not new. 
. . . Played Massenet's Herodiade. . . read some of Otto 
Jahn's Life of Mozart:' 

On April i6th (28th) Tchaikovsky began his third 
orchestral Suite, and we can follow the evolution of this 
work, as noted from day to day in his diary. 

"April i6th (28^), 1884. 

" In the forest and indoors I have been trying to lay 
the foundation of a new symphony . . . but I am not at 
all satisfied. . . . Walked in the garden and found the 
germ, not of a symphony, but of a future Suite." 

" April i^th (zgth). 
"... Jotted down a few ideas." 

" April igth (May ist). 

" Annoyed with my failures. Very dissatisfied because 
everything that comes into my head is so commonplace. 
Am I played out ? " 

April ^ 2 4//fc (May 6th\ 

u I shall soon be forty-four. How much I have been 
through, and without false modesty how little I have 
accomplished ! In my actual vocation I must say hand 
on heart I have achieved nothing perfect, nothing which 
can serve as a model. I am still seeking, vacillating. 

1 His brother-in-law, Leo Davidov. 


And in other matters ? I read nothing, I know nothing. 
. . . The period of quiet, undisturbed existence is over for 
me. There remain agitation, conflict, much that I, such as 
I am, find hard to endure. No, the time has come to live 
by oneself and in one's own way /" 

"April z6th (May 8M). 

"This morning I worked with all my powers at the 
Scherzo of the Suite. Shall work again after tea." 

" April 30//& (May 12^), 1884. 

" Worked all day at the Valse (Suite), but without any 
conviction of success." 

Extracts from a Letter to Anna Merkling. 

" KAMENKA, April 27 th (May 9^), 1884. 

" Many thanks, dear Anna, for your thought of me on 
the 25th (May 7th). . . . Without bitterness, I receive con- 
gratulations upon the fact that I am a year older. I have 
no wish to die, and I desire to attain a ripe old age ; but 
I would not willingly have my youth back and go through 
life again. Once is enough ! The past, of which you 
speak with regret, I too regret it, for no one likes better to 
be lost in memories of old days, no one feels more keenly 
the emptiness and brevity of life but I do not wish to be 
young again. ... I cannot but feel that the sum total of 
good which I enjoy at present is far greater than that 
which stood to my credit in youth : therefore I do not in 
the least regret my forty-and-four years. Nor sixty, nor 
seventy, provided I am still sound mentally and physically ! 
At the same time one ought not to fear death. In this 
respect I cannot boast. I am not sufficiently penetrated 
by religion to regard death as the beginning of a new life, 
nor am I sufficiently philosophical to be satisfied with the 
prospect of annihilation. I envy no one so much as the 
religious man. . . ." 

"The Valse gives me infinite trouble. I am growing 
old. , , ." 



"May 6th (iZth Sunday). 

" Went to church. I was very susceptible to religious 
impressions, and felt the tears in my eyes. The simple, 
healthy, religious spirit of the poorer classes always touches 
me profoundly. The worn-out old man, the little lad of 
four, who goes to the holy water of his own accord." 

" May StA (2oM), 1884. 

"Worked all morning. Not without fatigue, but my 
Andante progresses, and seems likely to turn out quite 
nice ... finished the Andante. I am very pleased with it." 

At this time Tchaikovsky resolved to take a small 
country house on his own account. " I want no land," he 
wrote to Nadejda von Meek, " only a little house, with 
a pretty garden, not too new. A stream is most desirable. 
The neighbourhood of a forest (which belonged to some- 
one else) would be an attraction. The house must stand 
alone, not in a row of country villas, and, most important 
of all, be within easy reach of a station, so that I can get 
to Moscow at any time. I cannot afford more than two 
to three thousand roubles." 


"May \\th(2$rd\ 1884. 

" The first movement of the Suite, which is labelled 
' Contrasts/ and the theme : 

has grown so hateful since I tormented myself about it all 
day long that I resolved to set it aside and invent some- 
thing else. After dinner I squeezed the unsuccessful 
movement out of my head. What does it mean ? I now 
work with such difficulty ! Am I really growing old ? " 


11 May \2th 

" After tea I took up the hateful ' Contrasts ' once more. 
Suddenly a new idea flashed across me, and the whole 
thing began to flow." 

"May \>]th (29^). 

" Played Mozart, and enjoyed it immensely. An idea 
for a Suite from Mozart." 

"May \%th (30^). 

" I am working too strenuously, as though I were being 
driven. This haste is unhealthy, and will, perhaps, reflect 
upon the poor Suite. My work (upon the variations 
before the finale) has been very successful. . . ." 

" May 2is t (June 2nd}. 
" Worked well. Four variations completed." 

"May 2$rd(Junetfh\ 
". . . . The Suite is finished." 

To P. Jurgenson. 
" GRANKINO, June 2oth (July 2nd), 1884. 

" I live here in a very pleasant way, a quiet, countrified 
existence, but I work hard. A work of greater genius 
than the new Suite never was ! ! ! My opinion of the new- 
born composition is so optimistic ; God knows what 
I shall think of it a year hence. At least it has cost 
me some pains." 

To S. /. Taneiev. 
" GRANKINO, June 30^ (July i2th\ 1884. 

". . . . Although it was interesting to hear your opinion 
of my songs, I was rather angry with you for saying 
nothing whatever about your own work, plans, etc. 

" Your criticisms of the songs the end of the ' Legend," 
and the abuse of the minor in the ' Lied vom Winter ' 
are very just. ... I should like to say your praise was 
equally well deserved, but modesty forbids. So I will not 
say you are right, but that I am pleased with your com- 
mendations. . 


" At the present moment I am composing a third Suite. 
I wanted to write a Symphony, but it was not a success. 
However, the title is of no consequence. I have composed 
a big symphonic work in four movements: (i) Andante ; 
(2) another Valse ; (3) Scherzo ; (4) Theme and Variations. 
It will be finished by the end of the summer, for I am 
working regularly and with zeal. Besides this, I am 
planning a concert-piece for pianoforte in two movements. 
It would be a fine thing if the work could be played during 
the coming season ! " 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" GRANKINO, July \tfh (26^), 1884. 

" I shall not set to work upon the pianoforte Concerto, of 
which I wrote to you, before autumn or early winter. Of 
course, it will be difficult ever again to find such an 
ideal interpreter as Nicholas Rubinstein, but there is a 
pianist whom I had in my mind when I thought of a second 
Concerto. This is a certain young man, called d'Albert, 
who was in Moscow last winter, and whom I heard several 
times in public and at private houses. To my mind he 
is a pianist of genius, the legitimate successor of Rubin- 
stein. Taneiev whom I value very highly as musician, 
teacher, and theorist would also be a suitable interpreter, 
if he had just that vein of virtuosity wherein lies the secret 
of the magic spell which great interpreters exercise over 
the public." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 
" SKABEIEVKA, July 2%th (August qth\ 1884. 

" The coachman will have told you our adventures. All 
went well as far as Kochenovka. There 1 had supper, and 
read Sapho by the mingled light of the moon and a lantern, 
keeping an anxious eye upon the lightning that was flash- 
ing all around. At 11.30 p.m. we resumed our journey. 
The storm came nearer and nearer, until it broke over our 
heads. Although the constant flashes were mild, and the 
rain wetted us through, my nerves were overstrained. I 
was convinced we should miss the train. . . . Fortunately 
it was late. Here we had an appalling storm. The sight 


of it at the hour of sunset, which still glowed here and 
there through the clouds, was so grand that, forgetful of 
my fears, I stood by the door to watch it. The rest of 
the journey was comfortable. I read Sapho, which I do 
not like." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"SKABEIEVKA, July 2$th (August 6th\ 1884. 

". . . You ask my opinion upon Daudet's Sapho ... in 
spite of his great talent, this author has long since dropped 
out of favour with me. If Daudet had not dedicated the 
book to his sons in order to display the fact that it contained 
a lesson and a warning, I should say that he had described 
the sensuality and depravity of the hero and heroine very 
simply and picturesquely, with considerable sympathy. 
But in view of this dedication I feel indignant at the 
Pharisaism and false virtuousness of the author. In reality 
he wants to tickle the depraved taste of his public, and 
describes with cynical frankness the immorality of Parisian 
life, while pretending to deliver a sermon to his sons. He 
would have us believe him to be pursuing a moral aim, 
actuated by the noble aspiration of saving the young from 
evil ways. In reality his only aim was to produce a book 
which would please the immoral Parisian public, and to 
make money by it. One must own that he has attained 
his object. The book will have a great success, like Zola's 
Pot-Bouille, the novels of Guy de Maupassant, and 
similar works of the new French school. When we reflect 
upon the group of people, and their way of life, as de- 
picted by the author, we come to the conclusion that under 
the cloak of verisimilitude and realism the novel is funda- 
mentally false. Sapho is an impossible being; at least 
I never came across a similar combination of honourable 
feeling and baseness, of nobility and infamy. Yet the 
author always sympathises with his heroine, and although, 
judging from the dedication, she is intended to inspire his 
sons with horror and repulsion, she must really seem very 
attractive to them. On the other hand, the virtuous 
characters in the book could not appeal sympathetically 
either to Daudet's sons, or to anyone else ; the tiresome 
Divonne, the hero's impossible sister, and the rest of 


them all these people are quite artificial. Sapho is an 
overdrawn type of a Parisian cocotte, but there is some- 
thing true to nature in her. The others are not alive. 
Most insipid of all is Irene. Any young man reading the 
book must realise why Sapho succeeded in supplanting 
her in the heart of her husband Jean. It is here that 
Daudet's hypocrisy is so evident, for while we ought to 
sympathise with Irene as greatly as we despise Sapho, in 
reality we involuntarily take the part of the depraved 
heroine. At the same time we cannot deny the great 
talent and mastery displayed in the book. Two or three 
dozen pages are wonderfully written." 


Early in September, 1884, Tchaikovsky went to stay at 
Plestcheievo, a country property which Nadejda von Meek 
had purchased after circumstances compelled her to sell 
Brailov. Here he led the kind of life which suited him 
best reading, composing, and studying the works of other 
musicians, in undisturbed quiet and freedom from social 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PLESTCHEIEVO, September %th (zo/Vfc), 1884. 

" I have realised two intentions since I came here the 
study of two works hitherto unknown to me Moussorg- 
sky's Khovanstchina and Wagner's Parsifal. In the first 
I discovered what I expected : pretensions to realism, 
original conceptions and methods, wretched technique, 
poverty of invention, occasionally clever episodes, amid 
an ocean of harmonic absurdities and affectations. . . . 
Parsifal leaves an entirely opposite impression. Here we 
are dealing with a great master, a genius, even if he has 
gone somewhat astray. His wealth of harmony is so 
luxuriant, so vast, that at length it becomes fatiguing, 
even to a specialist. What then must be the feelings of an 
ordinary mortal who has wrestled for three hours with this 


flow of complicated harmonic combinations ? To my 
mind Wagner has killed his colossal creative genius with 
theories. Every preconceived theory chills his incon- 
testable creative impulse. How could Wagner abandon 
himself to inspiration, while he believed he was grasping 
some particular theory of music-drama, or musical truth, 
and, for the sake of this, turned from all that, according 
to his predecessors, constituted the strength and beauty 
of music? If the singer may not sing> but amid the 
deafening clamour of the orchestra is expected to declaim 
a series of set and colourless phrases, to the accompaniment 
of a gorgeous, but disconnected and formless symphony, is 
that opera ? 

" What really astounds me, however, is the seriousness 
with which this philosophising German sets the most inane 
subjects to music. Who can be touched, for instance, by 
Parsifal^ in which, instead of having to deal with men and 
women similar in temperament and feeling to ourselves, we 
find legendary beings, suitable perhaps for a ballet, but not 
for a music drama ? I cannot understand how anyone can 
listen without laughter, or without being bored, to those end- 
less monologues in which Parsifal, or Kundry, and the rest 
bewail their misfortunes. Can we sympathise with them ? 
Can we love or hate them ? Certainly not ; we remain 
aloof from their passions, sentiments, triumphs, and mis- 
fortunes. But that which is unfamiliar to the human heart 
should never be the source of musical inspiration. . . ." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"PLESTCHEIEVO, October $rd (i$th), 1884. 

" This is my last evening here, and I feel both sadness 
and dread. After a month of complete solitude it is not 
easy to return to the vortex of Petersburg life. To-day 
I put all the bookshelves and music-cases in order. My 
conscience is clear as to all your belongings. But I must 
confess to one mishap : one night I wound the big clock 
in my bedroom with such energy that the weights fell 
off, and it now wants repairing. Dear and incomparable 
friend, accept my warmest thanks for your hospitality. 
I shall keep the most agreeable memories of Plestcheievo. 


How often, when I am in Petersburg, will my thoughts 
stray back to this dear, quiet house ! Thank you again 
and again." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"PETERSBURG, October i2th (24^), 1884. 
" DEAR FRIEND, When a whole week passes without my 
rinding time to write to you, you may conclude what a 
busy life I am leading. . . . The first night 1 of Eugene 
Oniegin is fixed for Friday, October iQth (3ist)." 

Thanks to Napravnik, this was by far the finest per- 
formance of Eugene Oniegin that had hitherto been seen. 
Never had this complicated score received so perfect an 
interpretation, both as a whole and as regards detail, 
because never before had a man so gifted, so capable and 
sympathetic, stood at the head of affairs. Yet even this 
first performance was by no means irreproachable. Since 
then, the St. Petersburg public has heard finer interpreta- 
tions of the parts of Tatiana, Eugene, and others, and 
has seen more careful staging of the work. The soloists 
gave a thoughtful rendering of their parts, but nothing 
more. Not one of them can be said to have " created " 
his or her part, or left a traditional reading of it. 

The success of the opera was great, but not phenomenal. 
There was no hissing, but between the acts, mingled with 
expressions of praise and appreciation, many criticisms 
and ironical remarks were audible. 

These unfavourable views came to light in the Press. 
Cui thought the mere choice of the libretto of Eugene 
Oniegin proved that Tchaikovsky was lacking in "dis- 
criminating taste," and was not capable of self-criticism. 
The chief characteristic of the opera was its " wearisome 
monotony." Tchaikovsky, he considered, was too fond 
of airing his troubles in his music. Finally, he pronounced 
the work to be " still-born, absolutely valueless and weak." 

Most of the other critics agreed with this view. 

1 At the Imperial Opera. 


Tchaikovsky himself was " satisfied." He had not 
realised, any more than the critics, that the crowded 
theatre signified the first great success of a Russian opera 
since Glinka's A Life for the Tsar. In spite of the Press 
notices, it was not merely a success, but a triumph ; a fact 
which became more and more evident. Dating from the 
second performance, Eugene Oniegin drew a long series of 
packed audiences, and has remained the favourite opera 
of the Russian public to this day. 

This success did not merely mark an important event 
in the history of Russian opera, it proved the beginning 
of a new era in the life of Tchaikovsky himself. Hence- 
forward his name, hitherto known and respected among 
musicians and a fairly wide circle of musical amateurs, 
was now recognised by the great public, and he acquired 
a popularity to which no Russian composer had ever yet 
attained in his own land. Together with his increase of 
fame, his material prospects improved. Eugene Oniegin 
transformed him from a needy into a prosperous man, 
and brought him that complete independence which was 
so necessary to his creative work. 

It is instructive to observe that all this was the outcome 
of an opera which was never intended to appeal to the 
masses ; but written only to satisfy the composer's en- 
thusiasm for Poushkin's poem, without any hope almost 
without any desire of seeing it performed on a large stage. 

In spite of its success, this performance of Eugene 
Oniegin was a great strain upon the composer's nerves. 
He felt bound to stay for the second performance, after 
which he left St. Petersburg for Davos, having in view a 
twofold object : to take a short rest, and to visit his friend 
Kotek, of whose condition he had just received disquiet- 
ing intelligence. Tchaikovsky broke his journey in 
Berlin, where he saw Weber's Oberon at the Opera. 
Instead of being bored by this work, as he expected, he 
enjoyed it very much. " The music is often enchanting," 


he wrote to his brother, " but the subject is absurd, in the 
style of Zauberflote. However, it is amusing, and I 
roared with laughter in one place, where at the sound of 
the magic horn the entire corps de ballet fall flat on the 
stage and writhe in convulsions. ... I also went to 
Bilse's and heard the Andante from my own quartet. This 
everlasting Andante ; they want to hear no other work of 
mine ! " 

On November I2th (24th) he arrived at Davos. He ex- 
pected to find a wilderness, in which neither cigarettes nor 
cigars were to be had, and the civilised aspect of the 
place, the luxurious hotels, the shops, and the theatre made 
upon him the fantastic impression of a dream. He had 
dreaded the meeting with Kotek, lest his friend should be 
changed beyond recognition by the ravages of consump- 
tion. He was agreeably surprised to find him looking 
comparatively well. But this was only a first impression ; 
he soon realised that Kotek's condition was serious. He 
remained a few days at Davos, rejoiced his friend's heart 
by his presence, had a confidential interview with the 
doctor, and left for Paris on November I7th (29th), after 
having provided liberally for the welfare of the invalid. 

To P. Jurgenson. 

"ZURICH, November iSt/i (30^), 1884. 

"... I have received a letter from Stassov urging me 
to present the following manuscripts to the Imperial Public 
Library: (j) Romeo and Juliet| > 

(2) ' The Tempest/ 

(3) ' Francesca/ 

(4) ' The String Quartet, No. 3,' 

and any others I like to send. Of the above works you do 
not possess the first two (' The Tempest ' was lost long 
ago !), but please send him the others. ... Be so good as 
to reply personally, or simply to send such scores as you 
can spare." 

2 H 


To M. Tchaikovsky. 

"PARIS, December yd (i$th) t 1884. 

" I can scarcely tell you, dear Modi, how wearisome the 
last few days have been although I cannot say why. It 
proceeds chiefly from home-sickness, the desire for a place 
of my own ; and even the knowledge that I start for 
Russia to-morrow brings no satisfaction, because I have no 
home anywhere. Life abroad no longer pleases me. . . . 
I must have a home, be it in Kamenka, or in Moscow. I 
cannot go on living the life of a wandering star. . . . 
Where will my home be ? " 

With the year 1884 closes the second period in Tchai- 
kovsky's artistic career. To distinguish it from the 
" Moscow period," which was inseparably connected with 
his teaching at the Conservatoire, it might be described as 
the "Kamenka period." Not only because from 1878-84 
Kamenka was his chief place of residence, but still more 
because the life there answered to the whole sum of his 
requirements, to all which characterised his spiritual con- 
dition during these years. After the terrible illness in 
1877 he found in Kamenka, far more than in San Remo, 
Clarens, or France, all he needed for his recovery ; during 
these seven years, it was at Kamenka that he gathered 
force and recuperated for the life which was becoming in- 
finitely more strenuous and many-sided. 

Those who have been at death's door often speak of 
their return to health as the happiest time in their lives. 
Tchaikovsky could say the same of the first years of the 
Kamenka period. Happy in the friendship of Nadejda 
von Meek and surrounded by his sister's family, who 
loved him, and whom he loved, his whole life shows no 
gladder days than these. 

But with a gradual return to a normal state of mind 
Tchaikovsky's relations to his environment underwent a 
change. As the years went on, Kamenka became too 


narrow a circle for him ; he felt the want of " social inter- 
course " ; the sympathy of his relations ceased to be the 
one thing indispensable ; the conditions of the family life 
palled, and sometimes he grumbled at them. By the 
middle of the eighties, he was so much stronger that he 
was possessed by a desire for complete independence and 
liberty of action. He no longer dreaded either absolute 
solitude, or the society of those whose interests were identical 
with his own. By absolute solitude we do not mean that 
solitary leisure which he enjoyed during his visits to 
Brailov and Simaki, during which he was cared for, as 
in a fairy tale, by the invisible hand of the truest of 
friends, but rather that independence and freedom in every 
detail of existence which constitutes the solitude of the 
typical bachelor's life. 

In 1878 Tchaikovsky's dread of this kind of solitary 
existence, like his fear of social intercourse, was a symptom 
of his terrible mental suffering. Now his desire for both 
independence and society must be regarded as a sign of 
complete recovery. Hence his increasing disposition in 
his letters to grumble at Kamenka, and his final decision 
to leave it. This resolve like so many important decisions 
in Tchaikovsky's life was not the result of mature re- 
flection. As usual, he allowed himself to be guided by 
negative conclusions. . . . He knew well enough that he 
must and would change his manner of life ; he knew the 
kind of life that would suit him for the time being that it 
must be in the country ; he observed with surprise his in- 
creasing need of social intercourse but he had no definite 
idea how he should reconcile these contradictory require- 
ments and, on the very eve of his new departure in life, he 
asks the question : " Where will my home be made ? " 

The answer to this question is contained in the follow- 
ing period of his life and work. 



STRONG and energetic, fearing neither conflict 
nor effort, the Tchaikovsky who entered upon 
this new phase of life in no way resembled the 
man we knew in 1878. 

The duties connected with his public career no longer 
dismayed him ; on the contrary, they proved rather attrac- 
tive, now he had strength to cope with them. At the same 
time interests stirred within him such as could not have 
been satisfied in his former restricted existence. Thanks 
to the enormous success of Eugene Oniegin, his fame had 
now reached every class in educated Russia, and he was 
compelled to accept a certain role which at least, in these 
first days of success was not unpleasant to him. He was 
glad to pay attentions to others, to help everyone who 
came his way, because by this means he could show his 
gratitude to the public for the enthusiastic reception 
accorded to his work. He was no longer a misanthropist, 
rather he sought those to whom he was dear, not only as 
a man, but as a personage. Amongst these, his old and 
faithful friends in Moscow took the first place. These 
intimacies were now renewed, and every fresh meeting 
with Laroche, Kashkin, Jurgenson, Albrecht, Hubert, and 
Taneiev gave him the keenest delight. Although death 
had separated him from Nicholas Rubinstein, he showed 
his devotion to the memory of his friend by taking the 
deepest interest in his orphaned children. 



In February, 1885, Tchaikovsky was unanimously elected 
Director of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical 

As the most popular musician in Russia, he no longer 
avoided intercourse with his fellow -workers. He was 
ready with advice, assistance and direction, and regarded 
it as a duty to answer every question addressed to him. 
His correspondence with his "colleagues" would fill a 
book in itself. 

He received letters not only from professional musicians, 
but from amateurs, male and female, students, enthusiastic 
girls, officers, and even occasionally from priests. To all 
these letters he replied with astonishing conscientiousness 
and strove, in so far as he could, to fulfil all their requests, 
which often led to touching, or sometimes grotesque, ex- 
pressions of gratitude from the recipients of his favours. 

As a composer Tchaikovsky no longer stood aloof, leav- 
ing the fate of his compositions to chance ; nor did he 
regard it as infra dig. to make them known through the 
medium of influential people. After a convalescence 
which had lasted seven years, Tchaikovsky returned to all 
these activities with vigour and enjoyment, although after 
a time his courage flagged, and all his strength of will had 
to be requisitioned to enable him " to keep up this sort of 
existence." Enthusiasm waned, and there succeeded in 
his own words " a life-weariness, and at times an insane 
depression ; something hopeless, despairing, and final 
and (as in every Finale) a sense of triviality." 

The new conditions of his life are reflected in his 
constantly increasing circle of acquaintances. In every 
town he visited he made new friends, who were drawn to 
him with whole-hearted affection. With many of them he 
entered into brisk correspondence. In some cases this 
was continued until his death ; in other instances the 
exchange of letters ceased after a year or two, to make 
way for a fresh correspondence. 


The most important and interesting of Tchaikovsky's 
correspondents during this time are: Julie Spajinsky, 
wife of the well-known dramatist (1885-1891); Emilie 
Pavlovskaya, the famous singer, with whom Tchaikovsky 
became acquainted during the rehearsal for Mazeppa in 
1884, and continued to correspond until 1888 ; the Grand 
Duke Constantine Constantinovich ; the composer Ippo- 
litov-Ivanov and his wife, the well-known singer, Zaroudna ; 
Vladimir Napravnik, son of the conductor : the pianists 
Sapellnikov and Siloti. With Glazounov, Desiree Artot, 
Brodsky, Hubert, his cousin Anna Merkling, and many 
others, there was an occasional exchange of letters. 

The greater part of these communications, notwith- 
standing the intimate style and frankness of the writer's 
nature, bear signs of effort, and give the impression of 
having been written for duty's sake. Taken as a whole, 
they are not so important, or so interesting, as the letters 
to Nadejda von Meek, and to Tchaikovsky's own family, 
belonging to the Moscow period. 

The same may be said of the majority of new acquaint- 
ances made during the later years of his life, of which no 
epistolary record remains. These were so numerous that 
it would be impossible to speak of them individually. 
They included such personalities as Liadov, Altani, Grieg, 
Sophie Menter, Emil Sauer, Louis Diemer, Colonne, Carl 
Halir, Besides these, he was in touch with a vast number 
of people belonging to the most varied strata of social life. 
Among them was Legoshin, valet to his friend Kondratiev. 
Tchaikovsky got to know this man by the death-bed of 
his master, and valued his purity of heart and integrity 
more and more as years went by. Another unprofessional 
friend was the celebrated Russian general, Dragomirov. 
While travelling to France by sea, he made the acquaint- 
ance of an extraordinarily gifted boy, the son of Professor 
Sklifasskovsy. The friendship was brief as it was touching, 
for the youth died a year later. Tchaikovsky was deeply 


affected by his loss, and dedicated to his memory the 
Chant Elegiaque, op. 72. 

All these new friendships served to surround the 
composer with that atmosphere of affection and apprecia- 
tion which was as indispensable to him as his daily bread. 
But none of them were as deep and lasting as the ties of 
old days, none so close and intimate ; nor did they contri- 
bute any new element to his inner life. . . . 

One word as to the dearest of all his later affections. 
His sister, A. Davidov, had three sons. The second of 
these, Vladimir, had always been Tchaikovsky's favourite 
from childhood. Up to the age of eighteen, however, 
these pleasant relations between uncle and nephew had 
not assumed any deep significance. But as Vladimir 
Davidov grew up, Tchaikovsky gradually felt for him a 
sentiment which can only be compared to his love for the 
twins, Toly and Modi, in their youth. The difference of 
age was no hindrance to their relations. Tchaikovsky 
preferred the companionship of his nephew ; was always 
grieved to part with him ; confided to him his inmost 
thoughts, and finally made him his heir, commending to 
this young man all those whom he still desired to assist 
and cherish, even after his death. 


To N. F. von Meek. 

" Moscow, January ist (i$th\ 1885. 

" It is so long since I wrote, dear friend ! Two events 
have interrupted my correspondence with you : on Christ- 
mas Eve I received a telegram announcing the death of 
Kotek. Not only was I much upset by this intelligence, 
but the sad duty of breaking the news to his parents 
devolved upon me. ... I have also had to make the 
difficult corrections in my new Suite myself. Hans von 
Bulow is shortly to conduct in Petersburg, and all must 


be ready four or five days hence. While I was away 
nothing was done here. I was furious, rated Jurgenson 
and the engravers, and worked till I was worn out ; there- 
fore I have had no time to lament for poor Kotek." 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"Moscow, January $th (17^), 1885. 

" All my thoughts are now directed towards taking up 
my abode in some village near Moscow. I am no longer 
satisfied with a nomadic existence, and am determined to 
have a home of my own somewhere. As I am sure I am 
not in a position to buy a country house, I have decided 
to rent one." 

The first performance of the Third Suite, which took 
place at a symphony concert in Petersburg, on January I2th 
(24th), 1885, under Von Biilow's direction, was a veritable 
triumph for Tchaikovsky. Never before had any of his 
works been received with such unanimous enthusiasm. 
Doubtless this was partly owing to the accessible and 
attractive character of the music, but far more to the 
admirable way in which it was interpreted. 

Hans von Biilow was a great pianist, yet in this sphere 
he had rivals who almost overshadowed his fame. As a 
conductor, however, he ranked, after Richard Wagner, as 
the first man of his day. In spite of his years he was 
as enthusiastic as a youth, highly strung, receptive, and a 
fine all-round musician. He knew how to bring out every 
detail in a work, and thus infused his own virtuoso-inspira- 
tion into each individual player. Under him in spite of 
his mannerisms and ungraceful movements the orchestra 
performed wonders, and threw new light upon the most 
hackneyed works (such as the overture to Freischutz\ 
holding the attention of the audience from the opening 
phrase to the last chord. 

Quick, restless, and continually under the influence of 
some inspiration, he was as extreme and pitiless in his 


dislikes as he was sentimental and enthusiastic in his 
sympathies. He could not merely like or dislike. He 
hated or adored. 

After having been in turn a passionate partisan of the 
classical masters, of Wagner and of Brahms, he became in 
the seventies a great admirer of Russian music, and was 
devoted to Tchaikovsky's works. His devotion was then 
at its zenith, consequently he put into his interpretation 
of the Third Suite not merely his accustomed experience, 
but all the fire of his passing enthusiasm. I say " pass- 
ing," because some ten years later this enthusiasm had 
somewhat cooled, and he had begun to rave over the 
works of Richard Strauss, who at that time had scarcely 
entered upon his career as a composer. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" Moscow, January i8fb (30^), 1885. 

" DEAR, KIND FRIEND, Forgive me my indolence, and 
for so seldom writing. To-day I returned from Peters- 
burg, where I spent a week of feverish excitement. The 
first few days were taken up by the rehearsals for the 
concert at which my new Suite was to be performed. I 
had a secret presentiment that it would please the public. 
I experienced both pleasure and fear. But the reality far 
surpassed my expectations. I have never had such a 
triumph ; I could see that the greater part of the audience 
was touched and grateful. Such moments are the best 
in an artist's life. ... On the I5th (27th) Oniegin was 
performed in the presence of the Emperor and Empress, 
and other members of the Tsar's family. The Emperor 
desired to see me. We had a long and friendly conversa- 
tion, in the course of which he asked all about my life and 
musical work, and then took me to the Empress, who paid 
me the most touching attention. The following evening I 
returned to Moscow." 

On January i6th (28th), the new Suite was given in 
Moscow, under Erdmannsdorfer. It met with considerable 


success, but not with such appreciation as in Petersburg. 
Erdmannsdorfer's interpretation was fine, but lacked the 
inspiration by means of which Hans von Biilow had electri- 
fied his audience. At this time Tchaikovsky was in search 
of an operatic subject. Just then, says his brother Modeste, 
" I was in Moscow, and remarked one day that certain 
scenes from Shpajinsky's play, The Enchantress ', would 
make an effective opera without using the whole drama as 
a libretto." The following day Tchaikovsky wrote to the 
author, asking permission to use the play for musical 
setting. Shpajinsky replied that he would be pleased to 
co-operate with the composer. 

When the time came for Tchaikovsky to find a residence 
in his native land, or to go abroad according to his usual 
custom, he was seized with an inexplicable fear of the 
journey, and sent his servant Alexis to take a furnished 
house, in the village of Maidanovo, near Klin. " The 
house," he wrote to Nadejda von Meek, "contains many 
beautifully furnished rooms, and has a fine view. Ap- 
parently it is a pleasant place to live in, but the number of 
rooms gives me some anxiety, because they must be 
heated in winter." Finally he decided to take it for a year, 
and should it prove beyond his means, to look out for 
something more suitable in the meanwhile. 

The village of Maidanovo lies close to the town of Klin. 
The manor house stands upon a high bank, overlooking 
the river Sestra, and is surrounded by a large park. Once 
it belonged to an aristocratic Russian family, but had 
gradually fallen into decay. Nevertheless, it bore many 
traces of its former splendour : the remains of a rosary in 
front of the fa9ade, arbours, lakes, little bridges, rare trees, 
an orangery and a marble vase, placed in a shady spot in 
the park. In 1885 this property was already spoilt by the 
numerous country houses built by rich owners in the 
immediate neighbourhood. But Tchaikovsky was so en- 
amoured of the scenery of Great Russia that he was quite 


satisfied with a birch or pine wood, a marshy field, the 
dome of a village church and, in the far distance, the dark 
line of some great forest. The chief motive, however, for 
his choice of this neighbourhood, where he lived to the end 
of his days, was not so much the charm of scenery as its 
situation between the two capitals. Klin lies near Moscow, 
and is also easily accessible from Petersburg, so that 
Tchaikovsky was within convenient distance from either 
city ; while at the same time he was beyond the reach of 
accidental visitors, who now frequently molested him. 

The first glimpse of Maidanovo disappointed Tchai- 
kovsky. All that seemed splendid and luxurious to his 
man Alexis appeared in his eyes tasteless and incon- 
gruous. Nevertheless, he felt it would be pleasant as 
a temporary residence. The view from the windows, the 
quiet and sense of being at home, delighted him. The cook 
was good and inexpensive. The only other servants he 
employed were a moujik and a washerwoman. " In spite 
of my disappointment," he writes to his brother, " I am 
contented, cheerful, and quiet. ... I am now receiving the 
newspapers, which makes life pleasanter. I read a great 
deal, and am getting on with English, which I enjoy. I 
eat, walk, and sleep when and as much as I please in 
fact I live." 


To E. Pavlovskaya. 
"MAIDANOVO, February zsth (March ^th\ 1888. 

"DEAR EMILIE KARLOVNA, I rather long for news 
of you. Where are you now? I have settled down 
in a village. My health is not good ... in Carnival week 
I suffered from the most peculiar nervous headaches. . . . 
As I felt sure my accursed and shattered nerves were 
to blame, and I only wanted rest, I hurried into the 
country. . . . My Vakoula will be quite a respectable 


opera, you can feel sure of that. I always see you as 
Oxana, and so you dwell in my company without suspect- 
ing it. I have made every possible alteration which could 
retrieve the work from its unmerited oblivion. I hope 
it will be quite ready by Easter. I intend to begin a new 
opera in spring, so I shall once more have an opportunity 
of spending all my time with my ' benefactress.' " l 

In February Taneiev played the new Fantasia for piano- 
forte in Moscow. Its immediate success was very great, 
but probably the applause was as much for the favourite 
pianist as for the work itself, for neither in Moscow nor 
yet in Petersburg where Taneiev played it a year 
later did this composition take any lasting hold upon 
the public. 

To N. F. von Meek. 

"MAIDANOVO, March $th (ly/A), 1885. 

" DEAR FRIEND, Your letter gave me food for reflec- 
tion. You are quite right : property is a burden, and only 
he who owns nothing is quite free. But, on the other hand, 
one must have a home. If I could live in Moscow, I should 
rent a house there. But it is not sufficient to rent a place 
in the country if one wants to feel at home. Here in 
Maidanovo, for instance, I have already found it very 
unpleasant to have my landlady living close by. I cannot 
plant the flowers I like, nor cut down a tree that obstructs 
my view. I cannot prevent people from walking in front 
of my windows, because there are other houses let in 
the park. I think, with my reserved character and nature, 
it would be better to have a little house and garden of my 
own. . . . 

"The Russian solitudes of which you speak do not 
frighten me. One can always take a great store of books 
and newspapers from town, and, moreover, I am very 
simple in my tastes. 

" I do not at all agree with your idea that in our country 

1 Tchaikovsky addressed Emilie Pavlovskaya by this term in gratitude for 
her splendid interpretation of the heroine in Mazeppa. 


it must always be horrid, dark, marshy ', etc. Even as 
the Esquimaux, or the Samoyede, loves his icy northern 
land, I love our Russian scenery more than any other, 
and a Russian landscape in winter has an incomparable 
charm for me. This does not hinder me in the least from 
liking Switzerland or Italy, in a different way. To-day 
I find it particularly difficult to agree with you about 
the poverty of our Russian scenery : it is a bright, sunny 
day, and the snow glistens like millions of diamonds. A 
wide vista lies before my window. . . . No ! it is beautiful 
here in this land of ours, and one breathes so easily under 
this boundless horizon. 

" It seems to me you think too gloomily, too despair- 
ingly, of Russia. Undoubtedly there is much to be 
wished for here, and all kinds of deceit and disorder 
do still exist. But where will you find perfection ? Can 
you point out any country in Europe where everyone 
is perfectly contented ? There was a time when I was 
convinced that for the abolishment of autocracy and 
the introduction of law and order, political institutions, 
such as parliaments, chambers of deputies, etc., were in- 
dispensable, and that it was only necessary to introduce 
these reforms with great caution, then all would turn 
out well, and everyone would be quite happy. But now, 
although I have not yet gone over to the camp of the 
ultra-conservatives, I am very doubtful as to the actual 
utility of these reforms. When I observe what goes on in 
other countries, I see everywhere discontent, party con- 
flict and hatred ; everywhere in a greater or less degree 
the same disorder and tyranny prevails. Therefore 
I am driven to the conclusion that there is no ideal 
government, and, until the end of the world, men will have 
to endure in patience many disappointments with regard 
to these things. From time to time great men bene- 
factors of mankind appear, who rule justly and care more 
for the common welfare than for their own. But these are 
very exceptional. Therefore I am firmly convinced that 
the welfare of the great majority is not dependent upon 
principles and theories^ but upon those individuals who, by 
the accident of their birth, or for some other reason, stand 
at the head of affairs. In a word, mankind serves man, 


not a personified principle. Now arises the question : 
Have we a man upon whom we can stake our hopes? 
I answer, Yes, and this man is the Emperor. His person- 
ality fascinates me ; but, apart from personal impressions, I 
am inclined to think that the Emperor is a good man. 
I am pleased with the caution with which he introduces 
the new and does away with the old order. It pleases 
me, too, that he does not seek popularity ; and I take 
pleasure also in his blameless life, and in the fact that 
he is an honourable and good man. But perhaps my 
politics are only the naivetf of a man who stands aloof 
from everyday life and is unable to see beyond his 
own profession." 

To E. K. Pavlovskaya. 
"MAIDANOVO, March \^th (26th), 1885. 

" I am now arranging the revised score of Vakoula, 
orchestrating the new numbers and correcting the old. 
I hope to have finished in a few weeks. The opera will 
be called Cherevichek? to distinguish it from the numerous 
other Vakoulas: Soloviev's and Stchourovsky's for instance. 
The authorities have promised to produce the opera in 
Moscow ; it will hardly be possible in Petersburg, as they 
have already accepted two new operas there. 

" As to The Captain's Daughter? if only I could find a 
clever librettist, capable of carrying out such a difficult task, 
I would begin the work with pleasure. Meanwhile I have 
made a note of The Enchantress, by Shpajinsky. The 
latter has already started upon the libretto. He will make 
many alterations and, if I am not mistaken, it will make a 
splendid background for the music. You will find it 
your most suitable role. If Les Caprices d'Oxane should 
be produced, you will continue to play the part of my 
' benefactress,' for you give me incredibly more than 
I give you. But if, with God's help, I achieve The En- 
chantress, I hope I may become your benefactor in some 
degree. Here you shall have a fine opportunity to display 
your art." 

1 This means The Little Shoes, but the opera has since been republished as 
Les Caprices d'Oxane. 2 A tale by Poushkin. 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"MAIDANOVO, April $rd (15^), 1885. 

" MY DEAREST FRIEND, I am once more back in 
Maidanovo, after a week and a half of travelling hither 
and thither. I worked almost without a break through 
the whole week before Palm Sunday and the whole of 
Passion Week, in order to be ready for the Easter festival. 
By Saturday everything was finished, and (although not 
well) I arrived in Moscow in time for the early service. 
I did not pass my holidays very pleasantly, and at the 
end of Easter Week I went to Petersburg, where I had to 
see Polonsky, author of the libretto of Vakoula, about the 
printing of the opera in its new form. I stayed four days 
in Petersburg, and spent them with my relations in the 
usual running about, which I found as wearisome as it 
was fatiguing. On Monday I travelled to Moscow in 
order to attend the reception of the Grand Duke Con- 
stantine Nicholaevich, who was to be present at the per- 
formance of the opera at the Conservatoire. As a member 
of the Musical Committee, I could not avoid taking part 
in the official reception to the Grand Duke, which I found 
a great bore. The performance went very well. Many 
thanks for sending me the articles in the Novoe Vremya. 
I had already seen them, and was very pleased with their 
warmth of tone. I am never offended at frank criticism, 
for I am well aware of my faults, but I feel very bitterly 
the cold and inimical note which pervades Cui's criticisms. 
It is not very long since the Russian Press (principally the 
Petersburg organs) began to notice me in a friendly spirit. 
Ivanov, the author of the articles in the Novoe Vremya, 
had formerly no good opinion of me, and used to write in 
a cold and hostile manner, although in Moscow I taught 
him theory for three years, and did not in the least 
deserve his enmity, as everyone knows. I can never 
forget how deeply his criticism of Vakoula wounded me 
ten years ago." 


To Rimsky-Korsakov. 

"MAIDANOVO, April 6th (i8/ft), 1885. 

last I have had so much to get through in a hurry that I 
could not spare time for a thorough revision of your 
primer. But now and again I cast a glance at it, and 
jotted down my remarks on some loose sheets. To-day, 
having finished my revision of the first chapter, I wanted 
to send you these notes, and read them through again. 
Then I hesitated: should I send them or not? All through 
my criticism of your book 1 ran a vein of irritation, a 
grudging spirit, even an unintentional suspicion of hostility 
towards you. I was afraid the mordant bitterness of my 
observations might hurt your feelings. Whence this 
virulence ? I cannot say. I think my old hatred of teach- 
ing harmony crops up here ; a hatred which partly springs 
from a consciousness that our present theories are unten- 
able, while at the same time it is impossible to build up 
new ones ; and partly from the peculiarity of my musical 
temperament, which lacks the power of imparting con- 
scientious instruction. For ten years I taught harmony, 
and during that time I loathed my classes, my pupils, my 
text-book, and myself as teacher. The reading of your 
book reawakened my loathing, and it was this which stirred 
up all my acrimony and rancour. . . . Now I am going to 
lay a serious question before you, which you need not 
answer at once, only after due consideration and discussion 
with your wife. 

" Dare I hope that you would accept the position of 
Director of the Moscow Conservatoire should it be offered 
you ? I can promise you beforehand so to arrange 
matters that you would have sufficient time for composing, 
and be spared all the drudgery with which N. Rubinstein 
was overwhelmed. You would only have the supervision 
of the musical affairs. 

"Your upright and ideally honourable character, your 
distinguished gifts, both as artist and as teacher, warrant 
my conviction that in you we should find a splendid 

1 A course of harmony. 


Director. I should consider myself very fortunate could 
I realise this ideal. 

" So far, I have not ventured to speak of it to anyone, 
and beg you to keep the matter quiet for the present. 

" Think it over, dear friend, and send me your answer. 1 . . ." 

To E. K. Pavlovskaya. 

" MAIDANOVA, April \2th (24^), 1885. 

"MY DEAR EMILIE KARLOVNA, Your exceedingly 
malicious criticism of The Enchantress not only failed 
to annoy me, but awoke my gratitude, for I wanted to 
know your opinion. I had even thought of asking you 
if you would go to see the play itself and give me your 
impressions. My conception and vision of the type of 
Natasha differs entirely from yours. Of course, she is a 
licentious woman ; but her spell does not consist merely 
in the fact that she can win people with her fine speeches. 
This spell might suffice to draw customers to her inn but 
would it have power to change her sworn enemy, the 
Prince, into a lover ? Deep hidden in the soul of this light 
woman lies a certain moral force and beauty which has 
never had any chance of development. This power is love. 
Natasha is a strong and womanly nature, who can only 
love once, and she is capable of sacrificing all and every- 
thing to her love. So long as her love has not yet ripened, 
Natasha dissipates her forces, so to speak, in current coin ; 
it amuses her to make everyone fall in love with her with 
whom she comes in contact. She is merely a sympathetic, 
attractive, undisciplined woman; she knows she is captivat- 
ing, and is quite contented. Lacking the enlightenment of 
religion and culture for she is a friendless orphan she 
has but one object in life to live gaily. Then appears the 
man destined to touch the latent chords of her better 
nature, and she is transfigured. Life loses all worth for 
her, so long as she cannot reach her goal ; her beauty, which, 
so far, had only possessed an instinctive and elementary 
power of attraction, now becomes a strong weapon in her 
hand, by which, in a single moment, she shatters the oppos- 

1 Rimsky-Korsakov courteously, but decidedly, declined the offer. 
2 I 


ing forces of the Prince his hatred. Afterwards they 
surrender themselves to the mad passion which envelops 
them and leads to the inevitable catastrophe of their 
death ; but this death leaves in the spectator a sense of 
peace and reconciliation. I speak of what is going to be 
in my opera ; in the play everything is quite different 
Shpajinsky quite understands my requirements, and will 
carry out my intentions in delineating the principal char- 
acters. He will soften down the hardness of Natasha's 
manieres d?etre y and will give prominence to the power of 
her moral beauty. He and I you too, later, if only you 
will be reconciled to this role will so arrange things that 
in the last act there shall not be a dry eye in the audience. 
This is my own conception of this part, and I am sure it 
must please you, and that you will not fail to play it 
splendidly. My enthusiasm for The Enchantress has not 
made me unfaithful to the desire, so deeply rooted in my 
soul, to illustrate in music those words of Goethe's : * The 
eternal feminine draws us onward.' The fact that the 
womanly power and beauty of Natasha's character remain 
so long hidden under a cloak of licentiousness, only 
augments the dramatic interest. Why do you like the part 
of Traviata or of Carmen ? Because power and beauty 
shine out of these two characters, although in a somewhat 
coarser form. I assure you, you will also learn to like 
The Enchantress" 

To M. Tchaikovsky. 
" MAIDANOVO, April 26th (May 8^), 1885. 

"The business connected with Cherevichek has ended 
very well. Vsievolojsky put an end to the irresolution of 
the so-called management and ordered the opera to be pro- 
duced in the most sumptuous style. I was present at a 
committee at which he presided, when the mounting was 
discussed. They will send Valetz, the scene-painter, to 
Tsarskoe-Selo, so that he may faithfully reproduce some of 
the rooms in the palace. I am very pleased." 




To P. Jurgenson. 
"MAIDANOVO, April 26th (May 8//fc), 1885. 

" The position of my budget is as follows : I possess 
(together with the Moscow royalty which I have not yet 
received) 6,000 roubles. From Petersburg and Moscow 
there must still be about 800 or 1 ,000 roubles to come in ; 
the honorarium from the church music, 300 roubles ; the 
honorarium from the Moscow Musical Society, 300 roubles. 

" Total : 6000 + 800 + 300 + 300 = 7,500 (sic /). 

" Up to the present I have not received more than 3,000 
roubles from you. 

" Consequently the capital which you have in hand 
amounts to 4,500-5000 roubles. A nice little sum." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"Moscow, May 26th (June ^th\ 1885. 

"... I am completely absorbed in the affairs of the 
Conservatoire, and have decided that the position of 
Director shall be offered to Taneiev. If I do not succeed 
in this, I shall retire from the Committee. Finally, I can 
tell you what, so far, I have said to no one here : I hate 
every public office more than ever. Oh, God ! how many 
disappointments have I experienced and how many bitter 
truths I have learnt ! No ! next year I must get right 

Tchaikovsky actually succeeded in getting Taneiev 
chosen as Director of the Conservatoire. Through him 
Hubert, who had long been absent from the Conservatoire, 
was once more reinstated as a teacher. To support 
Taneiev's authority Tchaikovsky determined to resume 
his place upon the teaching staff, and undertook the 
gratuitous class for composition. This only necessitated 
his attendance once a month to supervise the work of 
the few (two to three) students of which the class was 


To S. I. Taneiev. 
" MAIDANOVO, June \$th (25^), 1885. 

"Alexeiev has told me that according to the rules of the 
Conservatoire it is not permissible for me to be both teacher 
and member of Committee. Of course, I will not go back 
on my word, and I leave it to you to decide which would 
be the most useful to remain on the Committee, or under- 
take the somewhat honorary post of professor. I think 
it would be best to remain on the Committee, but just as 
you like. In any case I will do my duty conscientiously, 
on the condition that my freedom is not curtailed and that 
I may travel whenever I please. . . . 

" So, my dear chief, my fate lies in your hands. 

" After some hesitation I have made up my mind to 
compose Manfred, because I shall find no rest until I have 
redeemed my promise, so rashly given to Balakirev in the 
winter. I do not know how it will turn out, but mean- 
time I am very discontented. No ! it is a thousand times 
pleasanter to compose without any programme. When 
I write a programme symphony I always feel I am not 
paying in sterling coin, but in worthless paper money." 


Tchaikovsky began the composition of Manfred in 
June. The following letter from Balakirev, dated 1882, 
led him to choose this subject for a symphonic work. 

M. Balakirev to P. Tchaikovsky. 
"PETERSBURG, October 2%th (November qth), 1882. 
" Forgive me for having left your last letter so long un- 
answered. I wanted to write to you in perfect peace and 
quiet, but many things hindered me. You are more 
fortunate than we are, for you do not need to give lessons, 
and can devote your whole time to art. I first offered the 
subject about which I spoke to you to Berlioz, who de- 
clined my suggestion on account of age and ill-health. 


Your Francesca gave me the idea that you were capable 
of treating this subject most brilliantly, provided you took 
great pains, subjected your work to stringent self-criticism, 
let your imagination fully ripen, and did not hurry. This 
fine subject Byron's Manfred is no use to me, for it 
does not harmonise with my intimate moods. 

" Let me tell you first of all that your Symphony like 
the Second Symphony of Berlioz must have an idee fixe 
(the Manfred theme), which must be carried through all 
the movements. Now for the programme : 

" First Movement. Manfred wandering in the Alps. His 
life is ruined. Many burning questions remain unanswered ; 
nothing is left to him but remembrance. The form of the 
ideal Astarte floats before his imagination ; he calls to her 
in vain : the echo of the rocks alone repeats her name. 
Thoughts and memories burn in his brain and prey upon 
him ; he implores the forgetfulness that none can give 
him (F $ minor, second theme D major and F $ minor). 

" Second Movement. In complete contrast to the first. 
Programme : The customs of the Alpine hunters : patri- 
archal, full of simplicity and good humour. Adagio 
Pastorale (A major). Manfred drops into this simple life 
and stands out in strong contrast to it. Naturally at the 
beginning a little hunting theme must be introduced, but 
in doing this you must take the greatest care not to descend 
to the commonplace. For God's sake avoid copying the 
common German fanfares and hunting music. 

"Third Movement. Scherzo fantastique (D major). Man- 
fred sees an Alpine fairy in the rainbow above a waterfall. 

" Fourth Movement. Finale (F ft minor). A wild Allegro 
representing the caves of Ariman, whither Manfred has 
come to try and see Astarte once more. The appearance 
of Astarte's wraith will form the contrast to these infernal 
orgies (the same theme which was employed in the first 
movement in D major now reappears in D b major ; in 
the former it dies away like a fleeting memory, and is 
immediately lost in Manfred's phase of suffering but now 
it can be developed to its fullest extent). The music must 
be light, transparent as air, and ideally virginal. Then 
comes the repetition of Pandemonium, and finally the 
sunset and Manfred's death. 


" Is it not a splendid programme ? I am quite convinced 
that if you summon up all your powers it will be your 

" The subject is not only very deep, but in accordance 
with contemporary feeling ; for all the troubles of the 
modern man arise from the fact that he does not know 
how to preserve his ideals. They crumble away and 
leave nothing but bitterness in the soul. Hence all the 
sufferings of our times." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" MAIDANOVO, June \$th (25^), 1885. 

" DEAR FRIEND. I can at last congratulate you on 
the beautiful weather. I should enjoy it twice as much if 
Maidanovo were more congenial to me. But alas ! the 
lovely park, the beautiful views, and the splendid bath, are 
all alike spoiled by the summer visitors. I cannot take a 
step in the park without coming across some neighbour. It 
was beautiful in the winter, but I ought to have thought of 
the summer and the summer tourist. 

" I am deep in the composition of a new symphonic 
work. Shpajinsky could not send me the first act of The 
Enchantress at the date agreed upon, so without losing any 
time, in April I set to work upon the sketches for a 
programme Symphony, upon the subject of Byron's 
Manfred. I am now so deep in the composition of this 
work that the opera will probably have to be laid aside for 
some time. The Symphony gives me great trouble. It is 
a very complicated and serious work. There are times 
when it seems to me it would be wise to cease from com- 
posing for a while ; to travel and rest. But an unconquerable 
desire for work gains the upper hand and chains me to my 
desk and piano." 

To E. K. Pavlovskya. 
1 ' MAIDANOVO, July 2<zth (August ist), 1885. 

"... I have been playing through some numbers from 
Harold. A very interesting work and a clever one, well 
thought out and full of talent. But are you not surprised 
that Napravnik, who is so against Wagner, should have 


written a genuine Wagnerian opera ? I was filled with 

To N. F. von Meek. 

" MAIDANOVO, August yd (15^), 1885. 

" The horizon has been shrouded for days in thick mist, 
caused, they say, by forest fires and smouldering peat- 
mosses. This mist gets thicker and thicker, and I begin 
to fear we shall be suffocated. It has a very depressing 
effect. In any case my mental condition has been very 
gloomy of late. The composition of the Manfred Sym- 
phony a work highly tragic in character is so difficult 
and complicated that at times I myself become a Manfred. 
All the same, I am consumed with the desire to finish it as 
soon as possible, and am straining every nerve : result 
extreme exhaustion. This is the eternal cercle vicieux in 
which I am for ever turning without finding an issue. If I 
have no work, I worry and bore myself; when I have it, 
I work far beyond my strength." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"MAIDANOVO, August ^ist (September \2th\ 1885. 

". . . My fate, that is to say the question of my future 
home, is at last decided. After a long and unsuccessful 
search I have agreed to my landlady's proposal to remain 
at Maidanovo. I shall not stay in the uncomfortable and 
unsuitable house in which I have been living, but in one 
which she herself has occupied. This house stands some- 
what apart from the others, and a large piece of the garden 
is to be fenced in and kept for my especial use ; the house 
itself was thoroughly done up last summer. Although the 
neighbourhood is not what I could wish, yet, taking into 
consideration the proximity of a large town with station, 
shops, post, telegraph office, doctor and chemist and also 
my dislike for searching further I have decided to take 
this place for two years. It is pleasant and comfortable, 
and I think I shall feel happy there. I am now starting 
to furnish, and shall enter on my tenancy on September 
1 5th. If during the next two years I feel comfortably 
settled, I shall not search any more, but remain there to 


the end of my days. It is indeed time that I had a settled 



All the important epochs in Tchaikovsky's life were 
preceded by a transition period in which he tried, as it 
were, whether the proposed change would be feasible or 
not. From 1861-2, before he became a student at the 
Conservatoire, he was half-musician, half-official; in 1866, 
before he became a professor at the Conservatoire, and 
entirely a Muscovite, he was for eight months half- 
Petersburger and half-Muscovite; in 1877, before he gave 
up his professorship and started on what he called " the 
nomadic life " of the last seven years, he was half-professor 
and half-tourist; now, from February to September, 1885, 
he was rather a summer visitor than an inhabitant of the 
village of Maidanovo, but he had proved the firmness of 
his decision to remain there. It was only in the beginning 
of September that he became the true " hermit of Klin," 
who, alas, was often compelled to leave his hermitage. As 
he had now decided to settle down in a home of his own, 
he proceeded to make it comfortable. . . . With a school- 
girl's naivete in all practical questions of life, Tchaikovsky 
could not do much himself towards furnishing his little 
home, and handed over the task to his servant Alexis. 
He himself only helped by purchasing the most un- 
necessary things (for example, he bought two horses, which 
he sold again with great difficulty, also an old English 
clock, which proved quite useless), or by furnishing his 
library with books and music. He was as pleased as a 
child, and was never tired of talking of " my cook," " my 
washerwoman," "my silver," "my tablecloths," and "my 
dog." He considered all these to be of the very best, and 


praised them to the skies. With the exception of some 
portraits and ikons, all the remainder of Tchaikovsky's 
movable property dates its existence from this time. 

In comparison with the luxurious houses of other men 
in his position, painters, writers, and artists, Tchaikovsky's 
home was very modest. It contained only what was 
absolutely necessary. He did not possess beautiful or 
luxurious things, because his means were decidedly smaller 
than those of his colleagues in Western Europe, and also 
because he paid but little attention to outward appearances. 
If tables, cupboards, or curtains fulfilled their purpose fairly 
well, he was quite content. Workmanship and material 
were matters of indifference to him. He also troubled 
very little about " style " (he could not distinguish one 
style from another) ; even if a table was shaky, or the 
door of a cupboard refused to close, he took it all quite 
calmly. He would not surround himself with luxury, 
because his money belonged less to himself than to others, 
and because, even at the close of his life, when his income 
was 20,000 roubles a year, he remained free from all 
pretentious notions. 

Little as Tchaikovsky troubled about buying furniture, 
he cared still less about the placing of it. He entrusted 
the matter entirely to the will of his servant, who, knowing 
and taking into consideration his little fancies and habits, 
arranged everything just as " his master liked it," without 
paying any heed to beauty or tastefulness. Tchaikovsky 
preferred that nothing should be altered in his surround- 
ings ; he found it most disagreeable to have to accustom 
himself to anything new, still more to miss any of his old 
friends. Henceforth a certain tradition which surrounded 
every piece of furniture was always considered, if possible, 
at each removal, so that wherever Tchaikovsky might be, 
the appearance of his room remained the same. The 
division of his time in Klin was never changed to the end 
of his life. 


Tchaikovsky rose between seven and eight a.m. Took 
tea (generally without anything to eat) between eight and 
nine, and then read the Bible. After which he occupied 
himself with the study of the English language, or with 
reading such books as provided not only recreation, but in- 
struction. In this way he read Otto Jahn's Life of Mozart 
in the original, the philosophical writings of Spinoza, 
Schopenhauer, and many others. He next took a walk for 
about three-quarters of an hour. If Tchaikovsky talked 
while taking his morning tea, or took his walk in company 
with a visitor, it signified that he did not intend to com- 
pose that day, but would be scoring, writing letters, or 
making corrections. During his life at Klin, when engaged 
on a new work, he could not endure company, not only 
in the morning, but also during the day. In earlier days 
in Moscow, abroad, or in Kamenka, he had to content 
himself with the solitude of his room during his hours of 
active work. The presence of his servant Alexis did not 
in any way disturb him. The latter, the sole witness of the 
creative process of the majority of his master's works, did 
not even appear to hear them, and only once unexpectedly 
gave expression to his enthusiasm for the Chorus of 
Maidens in the third scene of Eugene Oniegin, to the great 
astonishment and perturbation of his master. To his " per- 
turbation," because he feared in future to be continually 
overheard and criticised. But this was fortunately the 
only flash of enlightenment which penetrated Safronov's 
musical darkness. 

Manfred was the last work Tchaikovsky composed in 
anything but complete isolation, and this is probably the 
reason why the task proved so difficult, and cost him such 
moments of depression. The principal advantage of his 
new surroundings was the enjoyment of complete solitude 
during his hours of work. 

We may mention that his reserve as to his compositions 
dates from this time. In the earlier days of his musical 


life Tchaikovsky had been very communicative about his 
work ; even before his compositions were finished he was 
ready to discuss them. In the evening he would ask the 
opinion of those with whom he lived upon what he had 
composed in the morning, and was always willing to let 
them hear his work. In course of time, however, the circle 
of those to whom he communicated the fruits of his in- 
spiration became ever smaller, and when he played any of 
his compositions he begged his hearers to keep their 
opinions to themselves. From 1885 he ceased to show 
his works to anyone. The first to make acquaintance 
with them was the engraver at Jurgenson's publishing 

Tchaikovsky never wasted time between 9.30 and I p.m., 
but busied himself in composing, orchestrating, making 
corrections, or writing letters. Before he began a pleasant 
task he always hastened to get rid of the unpleasant ones. 
On returning from a journey he invariably began with his 
correspondence, which, next to proof-correcting, he found 
the most unpleasant work. In the nineties his corre- 
spondence had attained such volume that Tchaikovsky 
was frequently engaged upon it from morning till night, 
and often answered thirty letters a day. 

Tchaikovsky dined punctually at I p.m., and, thanks 
to his excellent appetite, always enjoyed any fare that was 
set before him, invariably sending a message of thanks to 
the cook by Safronov. As he was always very abstemious 
and plain in his meals, it often happened that his guests, 
instead of complimenting the cook, felt inclined to do just 
the contrary. Wet or fine, Tchaikovsky always went for 
a walk after dinner. He had read somewhere that, in 
order to keep in health, a man ought to walk for two hours 
daily. He observed this rule with as much conscientious- 
ness and superstition as though some terrible catastrophe 
would follow should he return five minutes too soon. 
Solitude was as necessary to him during this walk as 


during his work. Not only a human being, but even a 
favourite dog was a bother. 

Every witness of his delight in nature spoilt his enjoy- 
ment ; every expression of rapture destroyed the rapture 
itself, and in the very moment when he said to his com- 
panion, " How beautiful it is here ! " it ceased to be beauti- 
ful in his eyes. 

Most of the time during these walks was spent in com- 
position. He thought out the leading ideas, pondered 
over the construction of the work, and jotted down funda- 
mental themes. In Klin there are carefully preserved 
many little exercise books, which he had used for this 
purpose. If in absence of mind Tchaikovsky had left his 
note-book at home, he noted down his passing thoughts 
on any scrap of paper, letter, envelope, or even bill, which 
he chanced to have with him. The next morning he 
looked over these notes, and worked them out at the 
piano. With the exception of two scenes in Eugene 
Oniegin, some piano pieces, and songs, he always worked 
out his sketches at the piano, so that he should not trust 
entirely to his indifferent memory. He always wrote out 
everything very exactly, and here and there indicated the 
instrumentation. In these sketches the greater part of a 
work was generally quite finished. When it came to the 
orchestration he only copied it out clearly, without essenti- 
ally altering the first drafts. When he was not busy with 
music during his walks, he recited aloud or improvised 
dramatic scenes (almost always in French). Sometimes he 
occupied himself by observing insects. In the garden at 
Grankino was an ant-hill, to which he played the part of 
benefactor, providing it with insects from the steppe. 

During the first year of his life at Maidanovo Tchaikov- 
sky himself ruined the charm of these walks. Like every 
good-hearted summer visitor he had given tips lavishly to 
the village children. At first it was a pleasure, but after- 
wards turned into a veritable nuisance. The children 


waited for him at every corner, and when they noticed 
that he began to avoid them, they surprised him in the 
most unexpected places in the forest. This quest of 
pennies spread from the children to the young people of 
the village, nay, even to the men and women, so that at 
last he could hardly take a step without being waylaid by 
beggars. There was nothing left for Tchaikovsky but to 
keep within the precincts of his park. 

About 4 p.m. Tchaikovsky went home to tea, read the 
papers if he was alone, but was very pleased to talk if he 
had visitors. At five he retired once more and worked till 
seven. Before supper, which was served at 8 p.m., Tchai- 
kovsky always took another constitutional. This time he 
liked to have company, and generally went into the open 
fields to watch the sunset. In the autumn and winter he 
enjoyed playing the piano either alone, or arrangements 
for four hands if Laroche or Kashkin were there. After 
supper he sat with his guests till 1 1 p.m., playing cards or 
listening while one of them read aloud. Laroche was his 
favourite reader, not because he showed any particular 
talent that way, but because at every phrase his face ex- 
pressed his enjoyment, especially if the author of the book 
happened to be Gogol or Flaubert. When there were no 
visitors, Tchaikovsky read a number of historical books 
dealing with the end of the eighteenth or beginning of 
the nineteenth century, or played patience and was a 
little bored. At 1 1 p.m. he went to his room, wrote up 
his diary, and read for a short time. He never composed 
in the evening after the summer of 1866. 

Unexpected guests were treated most inhospitably, but 
to invited guests he was amiability itself, and often gave 
himself the pleasure of gathering together his Moscow 
friends Kashkin, Hubert, Albrecht, Jurgenson, and 
Taneiev. But those who stayed with him longest and 
most frequently were Laroche, Kashkin, and myself. 



In the beginning of the eighties Tchaikovsky's fame 
greatly increased in Europe and America, not only with- 
out any co-operation on his part, but even without his 
being aware of it. More and more frequently came news 
of the success of one or other of his works, and letters 
from various celebrated artists who had played his com- 
positions, or wished to do so. The Committees of the 
Paris " Sebastian Bach Society " and the Association for 
the National Edition of Cherubim's works both elected 
him an honorary member. Nevertheless it surprised him 
greatly to learn that a Paris publisher (Felix Mackar) had 
proposed to P. Jurgenson to buy the right of bringing out 
his works in France. The sum which Jurgenson received 
was not indeed excessive, but it testified to the fact that 
Tchaikovsky's fame had matured and reached the point 
when it might bring him some material advantage. In- 
cidentally it may be mentioned that P. Jurgenson, with- 
out any legal obligation, handed over to Tchaikovsky 
half the money he received from F. Mackar, so that the 
former became quite suddenly and unexpectedly a 
capitalist, although at the end of the year he was not a 
single kopek to the good. After F. Mackar had become 
the representative of Tchaikovsky's interests in Paris he 
pushed his works with great zeal. First of all he induced 
him to become a member of the Society of Composers 
and Publishers, the aim of which was to enforce a certain 
fee for every work by one of its members performed in 
public. The yearly sum which Tchaikovsky now began to 
draw from France can be taken as an authentic proof of 
the growth of his popularity in that country. This sum 
increased every year until 1893. After Tchaikovsky's death 
it suddenly decreased in a very marked manner. Else- 
where I will give some explanation of this curious fact. 


Mackar also started his gratuitous Auditions of Tchai- 
kovsky's works. These Auditions, in spite of the free 
admission, were not very well patronised by the Paris 
public, who were satiated with music. But they produced 
one very important result. The best artists (Marsick, 
Diemer, and others) willingly took part in them, and 
henceforth Tchaikovsky's name appeared more often in 
the programmes of the Paris concerts. 

To E. K. Pavlovskaya. 
"MAIDANOVO, September gth (2ist), 1885. 

"... Manfred is finished, and I have set to work upon 
the opera without losing an hour. . . . The first act (the 
only one in hand) is splendid : life and action in plenty. 
If nothing prevents me I hope to have the sketch ready 
by the spring: so that I may devote next year to the 
instrumentation and working out. The opera can then 
be produced in the season 1887-8. Dear E. K., do please 
say a good word on every possible occasion for The 

To A. P. Merkling. 
"MAIDANOVO, September i^th (25^), 1885. 

"... Annie, first of all I am going to flatter you a little 
and then ask you to do something for me. After much 
searching and trouble I have rented a very pretty house 
here in Maidanovo. ... I am now furnishing this house 
. . . now . . . some good people . . . have promised . . . 
if I am not mistaken . . . that is, how shall I express 
myself? ... to sew . . . woollen portieres ... or cur- 
tains . . . that is, 1 would like to know . . . perhaps at 
once ... if you would ... I, in a word ... oh ! how 
ashamed I am . . . write please, how what . . . now, I 
hope, I have made myself understood. . . ." 1 

1 Anna Petrovna kept her promise, and made the curtains which ornament 
the dining-room at Klin till this day. 


To A.S. Arensky. 
" MAIDANOVO, September 2$th (October 7//&), 1885. 

" DEAR ANTON STEPANOVICH, Pardon me if I force 
my advice upon you. I have heard that 5/4 time appears 
twice in your new Suite. It seems to me that the mania 
for 5/4 time threatens to become a habit with you. I like 
it well enough if it is indispensable to the musical idea, 
that is to say if the time signature and rhythmic accent 
respectively form no hindrance. For example, Glinka, in 
the chorus of the fourth act of A Life for the Tsar, clearly 
could not have written in anything else but 5/4 time : here 
we find an actual 5/4 rhythm that is a continual and uni- 
form change from 2/4 to 3/4 : 

"It would be curious, and certainly 'an effort to be 
original/ to write a piece with a simple rhythm of 2/4 
or 3/4 time in 5/4 time. You will agree with me that it 
would have been very stupid of Glinka to have written 
his music thus: 

"It would be the same to the ear whether 2/4 or 3/4 : it 
would not be a mathematical blunder, but a very clumsy 
musical one. 

" You have made just such a mistake in your otherwise 
beautiful Basso ostinato. I made the discovery yesterday 
that in this instance 5/4 time was not at all necessary. 
You must own that a series of three bars of 5/4 is mathe- 
matically equal to a similar series of 3/4 time ; l in music, 
on the contrary, the difference between them is quite as 
sharp as between 3/4 and 6/8. 

1 A series of five bars of 3/4 is evidently meant. 


"In my opinion, your Basso ostinato should be written 
in 3/4 or 6/4 time, but not in 5/4. 

" I cannot imagine a more distinct five-bar rhythm in 
3/4 time. What do you think ? " 

To N. F. von Meek. 
11 MAIDANOVO, September 27/7* (October qth), 1885. 

" The first act of The Enchantress lies finished before 
me, and I am growing more and more enthusiastic over 
the task in prospect. 

" Dear friend, I like your arrogant views upon my opera. 
You are quite right to regard this insincere form of art 
with suspicion. But for a composer opera has some irre- 
sistible attraction ; it alone offers him the means of getting 
into touch with the great public. My Manfred will be 
played once or twice, and then disappear; with the excep- 
tion of a few people who attend symphony concerts, no 
one will hear it. Opera, on the contrary and opera 
alone brings us nearer to our fellows, inoculates the 
public with our music, and makes it the possession, not 
only of a small circle, but under favourable circum- 
stances of the whole nation. I do not think this ten- 
dency is to be condemned ; that is to say, Schumann, 
when he wrote Genoveva, and Beethoven, when he wrote 
Fidelio, were not actuated by ambition, but by a natural 
desire to increase the circle of their hearers and to pene- 
trate as far as possible into the heart of humanity. There- 
fore we must not only pursue what is merely effective, but 
choose subjects of artistic worth which are both interesting 
and touching." 

2 K 


To M. Tchaikovsky. 
"MAIDANOVO, October ist (13^), 1885. 

" What a wretch Zola is ! ! A few weeks ago I acci- 
dentally took up his Germinal, began to read it, got 
interested, and only finished it late at night. I was so 
upset that I had palpitations, and sleep was impossible. 
Next day I was quite ill, and now I can only think of the 
novel as of some fearful nightmare. . . ." 

To P. Jurgenson. 

" MAIDANOVO, October th (2ist), 1885. 

" DEAR FRIEND, Hubert tells me you do not think it 
possible to publish Manfred this season. Is this true? 
The question is this, I cannot allow two opportunities to 
slip: (i) Biilow is conducting in Petersburg; (2) Erd- 
mannsdorfer is conducting in Moscow perhaps his last 
season and, in spite of all, he is one of the few people on 
whom I can depend. On the other hand, I am not in a 
position to spend an incredible amount of trouble on a 
work which I regard as one of my very best, and then wait 
till it is played some time. As far as I am concerned, it is 
all the same to me whether it is played from written or 
printed notes so long as it is done. I believe it might be 
ready by February. But if you think that this is quite 
impossible, then I propose that you decline Manfred 
altogether (this will not offend me at all, for I know you 
cannot do the impossible for the sake of my whims). Only 
understand that I cannot on any account wait till next 
season, and cost what it may, 1 will see Manfred pro- 
duced. Do not take my caprice (if it is a caprice) amiss, 
and answer me at once." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"MAIDANOVO, October nth (zyd\ 1885. 

"... As regards the lofty significance of symphony 
and chamber music in comparison with opera, let me only 
add that to refrain from writing operas is the work of a 


hero, and we have one such hero in our time Brahms. 
Cui has justly remarked in one of his recent articles that 
Brahms, both as man and artist, has only followed the 
highest ideals those which were worthy of respect and 
admiration. Unfortunately his creative gift is poor, and 
does not correspond to his great aspirations. Nevertheless 
he is a hero. This heroism does not exist in me, for the 
stage with all its glitter attracts me irresistibly." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
"MAIDANOVO, November igth (December ist), 1885. 

"... I spent a week in Moscow, and was present at 
three concerts. The first, given by Siloti, who has just 
returned from abroad to serve his time in the army. He 
has made great progress. Then the Musical Society gave 
a concert and quartet-matinee, at which the celebrated 
Paris violinist, Marsick, played. All three concerts gave 
me great pleasure, as I have not heard any good music for 
so long. For a musician who writes as much as I do it is 
very necessary and refreshing to hear foreign music from 
time to time. Nothing inspires me more than listening to 
a great foreign work : immediately I want to write one 
equally beautiful. 

" I have also been once or twice to the Conservatoire, 
and was very pleased to notice that Taneiev is just the 
Director we wanted under the circumstances. His work 
shows resolution, firmness, energy, and also capability. I 
hear nothing about Les Caprices cTOxane> and begin to 
fear the work will not be produced this season." 

The following letter was written after Ippolitov-Ivanov 
had communicated the success of Mazeppa in Tiflis. 


To M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov.^ 

"December 6th (i8M), 1885. 

"... As to Mazeppci) accept my warmest thanks. My 
brother and his wife, who live in Tiflis, and had seen the 
opera in Moscow and Petersburg, tell me it went splen- 

" For some time I have been longing to find a subject 
not too dramatic for an opera, and then to write a work 
suitable to the resources of the provincial stage. Should 
God grant me a long life, I hope to carry out this plan, 
and thus to obliterate the unpleasant recollections of the 
immeasurable trouble which the rehearsals of Mazeppa 
must have left with you. But the harder your task, the 
warmer my thanks." 

To Modeste Tchaikovsky. 

"MAIDANOVO, December gth (2ist), 1885. 
" I am going to Moscow on December I4th (26th), prin- 
cipally to decide the fate of Les Caprices d'Oxane. I shall 
make heroic efforts to have my opera produced. I am 
advised to conduct it myself, and it is possible I may 
decide to do so. In any case, I shall spend the holidays 
in Petersburg. ... I am working very hard at the correc- 
tions of Manfred. I am still convinced it is my best 
work. Meanwhile The Enchantress is laid aside, but the 
first act is quite finished. The libretto is splendid. In this 
I am lucky." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
''MAIDANOVO, December nth (23^, 1885. 

"... My Third Suite was played at the last concert. 
The public gave me an enthusiastic ovation. . . . Lately 
we have had such lovely moonlight nights, without a 
breath of wind. O God, how beautiful they are ! The 
Russian winter has a particular charm for me, but that 
does not prevent me from planning a journey to Italy in 

1 The present Professor of Composition at the Moscow Conservatoire and 
Director of the Private Opera in Moscow. 


the spring. I am thinking of going by sea from Naples 
to Constantinople, then to Batoum, and thence by train to 
Tiflis to visit my brother Anatol, who is already expecting 

To S. I. Taneiev. 
"MAIDANOVO, December \\th (23^), 1885. 

"... Imagine ! I am rejoicing at the thought of hearing 
Beethoven's First Symphony. I had no suspicion that 
I liked it so much. The reason is perhaps that it is so 
like my idol, Mozart. Remember that on October 27th, 
1 887, the centenary of Don Juan will be celebrated." 

To P. Jurgenson. 

"December 22nd (January yd\ 1885. 

"... I have only just now been able to consider this 
question of Manfred, of Mackar, and the fee, and this is 
my decision : Even were Manfred a work of the greatest 
genius, it would still remain a symphony which, on account 
of its unusual intricacy and difficulty, would only be 
played once in ten years. This work cannot therefore 
bring any profit either to you or Mackar. On the other 
hand, I value it highly. How is the material value of 
such a work to be decided ? I may be wrong, but it seems 
to me my best composition, and a few hundred roubles 
would not repay me for all the work and trouble I have 
put into it. If you were very rich, I would unhesitatingly 
demand a very large sum, on the grounds that you could 
recover your outlay on other things but you are not at 
all rich. As for Mackar to speak frankly I am greatly 
touched by his cheerful self-sacrifice, for certainly he can 
have made very little out of my works in France. After 
having just received 20,000 francs from him, we must not 
show ourselves too grasping, especially as we know that 
there is not much to be made out of Manfred? 

" In short, I have made up my mind to claim nothing 
from Mackar, or from you, and have already told him this. 
I tell you also, so that you should not demand the pro- 
mised thousand francs from him. The demanding of 
payment for restoration of his copy is your affair." 


To N. F. von Meek. 
" MAIDANOVO, January i$th (25^), 1886. 

" DEAR FRIEND, . . . This time I have not brought 
back any pleasant impressions with me from Petersburg. 
My operas I do not know why have not been given 
lately, and I feel this the more bitterly because, owing to 
the unusual success of Oniegin, it appears that the Direc- 
tion has been urging that it should be given with greater 
frequency. The new symphony Manfred is completely 
ignored, for no preparations for its production are being 
made. In all this I do not recognise any enmity towards 
me personally, for in truth I have no enemies, but a kind 
of contempt which is a little wounding to my artistic 
vanity. Certainly this is an unfavourable year for me. 
They have decided not to give Les Caprices cFOxane in 
Moscow this season, and I had been expecting it so 
impatiently ! 

" I have a piece of news for you to-day, which pleased me 
very much. I had observed that here in Maidanovo the 
village children are constantly idle and run about without 
any occupation, which induced me to consult with the 
local priest about the founding of a school. This has 
proved to be possible, so long as I assure them an 
annual sum. I have consented to do so, and the priest 
began to take the necessary steps about two months ago. 
The official permission to open a school has arrived and 
the instruction can begin this week. I am very glad." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
" MAIDANOVO, January 14^(26^), 1886. 

"... The priest came to see me to-day, and brought me 
an invitation to the opening of the school on the I9th. I 
am proud to have initiated this work. I hope some good 
will come of it. In spite of the greatest care and modera- 
tion, I suffer from dyspepsia. It is not serious, and I have 
no doubt a cure at Vichy will completely set me up." 


To N. F. von Meek. 

"Moscow, February tfh (idth), 1886. 

" How difficult it is after receiving your money to say in 
the baldest way, ( Money received, many thanks ! ' If only 
you had an inkling of all the happiness I owe you, and the 
whole meaning of that ' independence and freedom ' which 
are the result of my liberty. Life is an unbroken chain of 
little unpleasantnesses and collision with human egoism 
and pride, and only he can rise above these things who 
is free and independent. How often do I say to myself: 
Well that it is so, but how if it were otherwise ? 

"Just lately I had some very unpleasant frictions which 
only just fell short of open quarrels, but failed to upset 
me because I could appear to ignore the wrong inflicted 
upon me. Yes, in the last few years of my life there 
have been many occasions on which I have sincerely felt 
the debt of gratitude I owe to you. And yet I usually 
send you the receipt as if it were a matter of course. My 
gratitude has no limits, my dear." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"MAIDANOVO, February 6th (i8M), 1886. 

". . . . To-day I returned from Moscow, where I have 
been attending Rubinstein's concerts once a week. Were 
it only a question of listening to that marvellous pianist, 
I should not have found the journeys at all tedious, 
in spite of my dislike of leaving home. But I had to 
go to all the dinners and suppers which were held in his 
honour, which I generally found intolerably wearisome 
and most injurious to my health. At the last concert 
Rubinstein played pieces by Henselt, Thalberg, Liszt, and 
others. There was very little artistic choice, but the 
performance was indeed astonishing." 

To N. F. von Meek. 
"MAIDANOVO, February \^th (z6th\ 1886. 

". . . . The festival which the town of Moscow held 
in Rubinstein's honour was a great success. He was 


visibly touched by the energy and warmth with which 
the Muscovites expressed their affection for him. Indeed, 
everyone must recognise that Rubinstein is worthy of all 
such honour. He is not only a gifted artist, but also 
a most honourable and generous man." 


"MAIDANOVO, February 22ftd (March 8/^), 1886. 
"What an unfathomable gulf lies between the Old 
and the New Testament ! Read the psalms of David, and 
at first it is impossible to understand why they have taken 
such a high place from an artistic point of view ; and, 
secondly, why they should stand beside the Gospels. 
David is altogether of this world. He divides the whole 
of humanity into two unequal portions : sinners (to which 
belong the greatest number) and the righteous, at whose 
head he places himself. In every psalm he calls down 
God's wrath upon the sinner and His praise upon the 
righteous ; yet the reward and the punishment are both 
worldly. The sinners shall be undone, and the righteous 
shall enjoy all the good things of this earthly life. How 
little that agrees with Christ's teaching, who prayed for 
His enemies, and promised the good no earthly wealth, 
but rather the kingdom of heaven ! What touching love 
and compassion for mankind lies in these words : ' Come 
unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden ' ! In 
comparison with these s